Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

22.9.06

Greenpeace, Apple clash over toxic waste


Greenpeace, Apple clash over toxic waste
By Andrew Donoghue, ZDNet (UK)
Published on
ZDNet News: August 29, 2006, 7:33 AM PT ZDNet Tags: The environmental track records of Apple Computer and Lenovo Group have been singled out for criticism by environmental group Greenpeace in a report on toxic chemicals used by the technology industry.

The Guide to Greener Electronics, published late last week, is designed to help consumers and businesses gauge how green tech companies are. Rather than focusing on recycling, customers wanting to buy green should focus on the toxic chemicals used by tech suppliers, Greenpeace claims.

"The scoring is weighted more heavily on the use of toxic substances in production rather than criteria on recycling because until the use of harmful substances is eliminated in products, it is impossible to secure 'safe,' toxic-free recycling," Greenpeace said in a statement.

Nokia and Dell came out top in the ranking, with the Finnish handset manufacturer leading the way in 2005 by eliminating use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in its products. Dell also has set ambitious targets for cutting its use of PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), according to Greenpeace.

Lenovo and Apple fared less well, with the Chinese PC manufacturer ranked last. Greenpeace claimed that Lenovo earned some points for its chemicals management and voluntary take-back programs but needs to do better on all criteria.

A Lenovo representative said the company meets worldwide environmental regulations and argued that Greenpeace's ranking doesn't accurately reflect its environmental record.

"We sell our products primarily to commercial enterprises, not consumers, and we offer recycling services on a bid basis to any commercial customer with whom we do business. Those bid services do not appear on our Web site, and company Web sites were noted as one of the main sources for Greenpeace's evaluation," the representative added.

The environmental group also said that Apple could do more to match its environmental record with its hip and trendy image. "It is disappointing to see Apple ranking so low in the overall guide. They are meant to be world leaders in design and marketing; they should be world leaders in environmental innovation."

A representative for Apple disagreed with Greenpeace's rating and the criteria it had chosen. "Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many BFRs. We have also completely eliminated CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors, which contain lead, from our product line," the representative said.

The EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, which limits the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, went into force in the U.K. on July 1 and should go some way toward forcing the technology industry to clean up its act.

In July, Palm was forced to stop shipping its Treo 650 smart phone in Europe, because it violated the RoHS directive.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London.

Note created Aug 29, 2006
Greenpeace, Apple clash over toxic waste | Tech News on ZDNet - news.zdnet.com/...

How green is your Apple?

Aug 25th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Not very, according to Greenpeace

DISPOSING of computers, monitors, printers and mobile phones is a large and growing environmental problem. Some 20m-50m tonnes of “e-waste” is produced each year, most of which ends up in the developing world. According to the European Union, e-waste is now the fastest-growing category. Last month new rules came into force in both Europe and California to oblige the industry to take responsibility for it. In Europe the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive limits the use of many toxic materials in new electronic products sold in the European Union. In California mobile-phone retailers must now take back and recycle old phones.

Many technology firms are already eliminating certain chemicals and offering recycling schemes to help their customers dispose of obsolete equipment. Yet there is a wide variation in just how green different companies are, according to Greenpeace, an environmental lobby group that launches a new e-waste campaign on August 25th. It has ranked the top mobile-phone and PC-makers based on their progress in eliminating chemicals and in taking back and recycling products (see chart).

The RoHS rules ban products containing any more than trace amounts of lead, mercury, cadmium and other hazardous substances, including some nasty materials called brominated flame-retardants (BFRs). To do well in Greenpeace's rankings, firms must make sure both products and production processes are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and some BFRs that are not on the RoHS list. Greenpeace also wants companies to adopt a “precautionary principle” and avoid chemicals if their environmental impact is uncertain.

Although not everyone will agree with Greenpeace's methodology, its ranking still has some merit. Nokia does well: the world's biggest handset-maker has already got rid of PVC from its products and will eliminate all BFRs from next year. But, Greenpeace grumbles, it is not sufficiently “precautionary” in other areas. Dell, however, scores well in this regard and on recycling, but loses marks for not having phased out PVC and BFRs yet, though it has set a deadline for doing so.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the poor rating of Apple. Despite having an image steeped in California's counterculture, it is one of the worst heel-draggers, says Zeina Al-Hajj of Greenpeace. The company insists that it has a strong record in recycling and has eliminated BFRs and PVC from the main plastic parts in its products. It scores badly because it has not eliminated such chemicals altogether, has not set time limits for doing so, does not provide a full list of regulated substances and is insufficiently precautionary for Greenpeace's tastes. As for recycling, the 9,500 tonnes of electronics Apple says it has recycled since 1994 is puny given the amount of equipment the firm sells, says Ms Al-Hajj. Apple responds that many of its products (such as the iPod music-player) are small and light. Greenpeace points out that Nokia also makes tiny devices, but is much better at recycling them.

Alas for Apple, whatever the pros and cons of Greenpeace's ranking criteria, consumers are likely to be influenced by it anyway. Comically, Greenpeace is now considering a plan to promote its e-waste campaign via podcasting—a technology that Apple helped to popularise.

Note created Aug 28, 2006
E-waste | How green is your Apple? | Economist.com - www.economist.com/...

Inquiry into BP 'market manipulation'


Inquiry into BP 'market manipulation'

·
Investigators look at crude oil and petrol trading
·
Browne called to testify in person over Texas fire

Terry Macalister
Wednesday August 30, 2006

The Guardian

A BP oil well in Alaska. Photograph: AP
 


BP faced a further serious attack on its integrity yesterday with the disclosure that US federal investigators were looking into allegations it had manipulated oil and unleaded petrol markets.

The latest setback came 24 hours after Lord Browne, the chief executive, was told by a US state judge that he would have to personally testify in death and injuries cases resulting from the Texas City refinery fire last year.

In the latest allegations to hit BP over its oil trading practices, the US commodity futures trading commission (CFTC) sent subpoenas to the company as part of an inquiry into possible manipulation of the global over-the-counter crude oil market in 2003 and 2004.

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A BP spokesman in London said: "We are aware of the investigations and we are cooperating but we are not going to comment on the specifics." Britain's biggest company is already facing a civil complaint lodged by federal commodity regulators for allegedly manipulating the American market for propane gas.

The CFTC undertook a similar inquiry into oil trading in 2003, which resulted in no charges against BP, but the same year the company paid $2.5m (£1.3m) to the New York mercantile exchange to settle allegations of improper crude oil trading.

BP has also been summoned before US Congress next week over pipeline spills from its Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. The field was forced to partly shut down this month amid accusations that maintenance had been neglected. After 15 people were killed at the Texas City refinery, in the second fire in two years, BP was also hit last year by the capsizal of its Thunder Horse production platform in the US Gulf, reinforcing accusations the company had lost its way in the US.

This has all happened during a period when Lord Browne has agreed to stand down at the end of 2008 after he reaches retirement age - but not before he had been involved in an embarrassing row with his chairman, Peter Sutherland.

Fadel Gheit, oil analyst with New York brokerage Oppenheimer & Co and a longtime supporter of Lord Browne and BP, said the scale of the problems facing the company had brought it to a "crisis".

"I am sorry for Lord Browne and BP but they have lost their winning streak and found a losing streak. There is no question the company has been badly damaged. Whether it is permanent or irreversible, it's going to be on his [Lord Browne's] report card."

Mr Gheit pointed out that BP's share price was already suffering compared with its rivals, in a year of rocketing oil prices and huge profits for energy firms. BP, which has the largest part of its business in the US after a series of acquisitions there, has seen its shares gain only 6% this year. Shell has gained 15% and ExxonMobil 25%. That was before BP shares lost 12.5p yesterday to 593p.

The blow to the British company's image has also come after Lord Browne has been held up as a model industrialist. He has built up high expectations among investors and the public by vowing BP would go "beyond petroleum". This involved embracing the need to fight climate change. He has also tried to lead the way as an ethical business by promising transparency in oil dealings and commitment to human rights. Some industry experts fear endless accolades and awards for Lord Browne have sown the seeds of complacency.

The accidents at Texas City and Thunder Horse have already highlighted the company's safety record in the US. If BP is found to be guilty of systematically neglecting pipelines in Alaska or manipulating the oil and gas markets, politicians and the public could increasingly turn against the company.

One industry expert said: "If there is anything like unethical trading going on, people do not like that. Anything seen as slimy would be unacceptable."

BP has already dismissed a group of propane traders for trading irregularities, opening itself up to civil claims from regulators. The company said it would appeal against the demand by the Texan state judge Susan Criss that Lord Browne put himself forward to be questioned under oath in injury cases brought over the 2005 Texas City refinery fire. "Neither Lord Browne nor [refining and marketing boss John Manzoni] have unique knowledge of the Texas City incident," said a BP spokesman.

BP's fall from grace comes after a period in the limelight when its rival Shell had sacked its chairman after regulators found it guilty of overbooking reserves. It took 18 months for Shell's share price to recover.

Now the tables have been turned, with some even questioning whether Lord Browne may be forced to leave early. He has said he wants to leave with the company in good shape and its image restored.

The BP chief executive said at the company's financial results last month that the difficulties had all come out of separate parts of the business and were not linked. However, the more such problems arise, the harder it could become to sustain that argument. Its corporate image is already taking a beating - as Mr Gheit said: "Its not so much that BP stands for 'beyond petroleum' at present so much as 'big problems'."

Tarnished legacy: Lord Browne

It's all part of the image: BP and Lord Browne are one product - sharp, understated but with clear attention to detail. It's a brand that has been lauded everywhere, no less so than in the City, where the FT once uniquely devoted six pages over three days to the man dubbed by some as the Sun King.

But this monarch, who preached the gospel of ethical capitalism, is now in trouble. His US kingdom is under fire from politicians, regulators and increasingly lawyers, alleging market manipulation, misrepresentation of maintenance records and negligence.

The timing could not be worse for the oilman's son who used his enormous charm, guile and energy to turn a failing mid-size business into a global colossus through a series of audacious takeovers. Now Lord Browne must leave for retirement in 2008 having lost a battle with his chairman, Peter Sutherland, to stay on.

Lord Browne joined BP straight from Cambridge University and reached the top in 1995. An only child who has never married, he makes no secret of BP being his surrogate family. Work-obsessed he might be, but that does not stop him finding time to collect Colombian artefacts or spending weekends at his flat in Venice.

BP's problems threaten to seriously tarnish what should have been a golden legacy and reinforce the view long held by green critics that the nice suits hid nasty surprises.
Terry Macalister

Note created Aug 30, 2006
Guardian Unlimited Business | | Inquiry into BP 'market manipulation' - business.guardian.co.uk/...

Brussels warns carmakers: meet targets to slash CO2 emissions or face tougher laws


Brussels warns carmakers: meet targets to slash CO2 emissions or face tougher laws

·
Manufacturers on course to miss pledge of 25% drop
·
Treble annual reductions, says commissioner

Nicholas Watt in Brussels
Wednesday August 30, 2006

The Guardian

Car manufacturers were given a blunt warning yesterday from Brussels, which said companies would face stringent laws if they failed to abide by their commitment to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

European, Japanese and Korean carmakers were threatened with the "stick" of mandatory cuts in the polluting emissions after figures showed that they were on course to miss a 25% reduction in CO2 levels by 2009.

Gregor Kreuzhuber, the European commission's industry spokesman, said: "The [commission] will not hesitate to replace the carrot with the stick. This would be regulation. The car industry should be aware that we are watching the situation very closely."

The warning came after new figures showed that CO2 emissions from new cars dropped by 12.4% between 1995 and 2004. But the industry had agreed to cut average CO2 emissions to 140g per km by 2008-09 - a fall of 25% on 1995 levels.

Günter Verheugen, the European industry and enterprise commissioner, praised the sector for having made "continuous and substantial" progress since 1995. But he added: "The situation is not satisfactory. I urge the industry to step up their efforts."

The commission warned carmakers that they had to act now after CO2 emissions were cut on average by just 1.2% between 2003-04. Japanese carmakers, such as Daihatsu, Honda and Lexus, will have to achieve annual cuts of 3.5% to meet the agreed target.

European firms, such as BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo, and Korean makers, such as Daewoo and Hyundai, will have to achieve annual cuts of 3.3%.

"We expect the industry to step up its efforts and stick by its commitments," Mr Kreuzhuber said. "We have a voluntary agreement with the car manufacturers. It is ambitious but it is achievable."

Under the Kyoto protocol, the commission has made cuts in vehicle emissions a key part of its campaign to reduce greenhouse gases to 8% below 1990 levels by 2012. Road transport generates more than a fifth of all CO2 emissions, with cars responsible for half of these. Emissions from cars and lorries have increased by 22% since 1990.

The commission wants to cut cars' CO2 emissions from 120g/km by 2012. European manufacturers agreed to achieve the first target of 140g/km by 2008, while Japanese and Korean makers agreed to achieve this target the following year.

Stavros Dimas, Europe's environment commissioner, said: "To combat climate change and respect our Kyoto commitments, we have to reduce CO2 emissions from transport - a sector [contributing] significantly to overall emissions."

Brussels also has four-wheel drive vehicles in its sights. "The heavier the car, the greater the CO2 emissions," Mr Kreuzhuber said. The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, which represents 13 carmakers, emphasised the progress it had made. Ivan Hodac, the secretary general, said: "The commitment is successful in ensuring CO2 emissions are reduced steadily in a relatively short period." The association said CO2 emissions from new cars had been cut from 185g/km in 1995 to 161g in 2004. About a million new cars a year now emit 120g or less.

Mr Hodac said: "There is now a need to link the taxation of cars and of alternative fuels more vigorously to CO2 emissions."

Note created Aug 30, 2006
Guardian Unlimited Business | | Brussels warns carmakers: meet targets to slash CO2 emissions or fac - business.guardian.co.uk/...

Tories would bring back fuel duty 'escalator': The controversial "escalator" for fuel duty would be reintroduced under Tory plans for greener taxation


Tories would bring back fuel duty 'escalator'

(Filed: 31/08/2006)

The controversial "escalator" for fuel duty would be reintroduced under Tory plans for greener taxation, a senior party figure has said.



 
George Osborne wants so-called green taxes to rise

Former London mayoral candidate Steve Norris - who leads a working group on transport for Tory leader David Cameron - said he was "sure" the policy would be brought back.

Mr Norris's comments came after George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, pledged that those who damaged the environment faced paying more if the Conservatives came to power.

In one of the party's clearest statements yet on tax, Mr Osborne said: "I believe we in Britain should move some of the burden of taxation away from income and capital and towards taxes on environmentally-damaging behaviour.

"Instead of a tax system that penalises hard work and enterprise, I want to move towards more effective and fair taxes on pollution. I want the proportion of tax revenue raised by green taxes to rise."

Speaking to business leaders in Tokyo, Mr Osborne said the Tories were committed to reducing emissions from cars and pollution from aeroplanes.

He also reinforced his interest in new high-speed train projects in Japan, saying similar schemes could lessen the need for air travel in Britain.

Mr Osborne added: "Not only can environmental protection go hand in hand with economic progress, but it must.

"To persuade the whole world that we should act against this threat, we must show them that they need not put their quality of life at risk."

Mr Norris told BBC Radio 4's World at One the idea was to "rebalance" the system.

"So that, yes, you will pay more in green taxes. You will, for example, see the reintroduction of a fuel duty escalator, I am quite sure."

The former MP also suggested that "significant changes" in vehicle excise duty were likely, with a possible differential VAT rate for new vehicles.

The fuel duty escalator was originally introduced by the Tories in 1993, and meant that duty rose by 3 per cent above the rate of inflation every year.

When Labour came to power Gordon Brown at first extended the escalator, but then scrapped automatic rises after sharp hikes in world oil prices sparked an outcry among motorists.

In September 2000 many hauliers, farmers, taxi drivers and others joined protests which saw refineries blockaded for a day and then picketed.

Ed Balls, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said the Government had been freezing fuel duty every year because of the extremely high level of oil prices.

"I think the question George Osborne failed to answer this morning is: is he really saying that he thinks taxes on motorists should be going up now at a time when petrol prices are so high?"


Note created Sep 5, 2006
Telegraph | News | Tories would bring back fuel duty 'escalator' - www.telegraph.co.uk/...

Fury over pensions bonanza for bosses: Britain's top businessmen will collect up to £1m while companies axe final salary schemes for employees


Fury over pensions bonanza for bosses

Britain's top businessmen will collect up to £1m while companies axe final salary schemes for employees

Oliver Morgan
Sunday September 3, 2006

The Observer

Britain's top businessmen can look forward to retiring on pensions of more than £500,000 a year, with leading earners reaching nearly £1m, according to research to be released this week.

The figures come at a highly controversial time, just two weeks after the Association of British Insurers warned that excessive pensions for directors were damaging the reputation of business when ordinary employees were having their benefits cut. Many leading UK companies are negotiating reductions in benefits or increases in the retirement age for employees in order to tackle pension fund deficits.

The report, to be published in this week's Labour Research magazine, shows that 112 directors of FTSE 100 firms will have pensions worth at least £200,000 a year, with 27 expecting one of £500,000 a year - a weekly income of £9,615.

Meanwhile, the TUC will this week produce a detailed analysis of the comparison between boardroom pensions and those for normal staff, which is expected to show directors receiving 'luxury' payouts while employees savings 'suffer'. 'Pensions hypocrisy' will be a high-profile issue at this year's TUC congress in Brighton, which takes place next week.

Top of the UK's pension earners is Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, whose annual payout would be £991,000 if he retired now, equivalent to £19,000 a week. He is also entitled to a lump sum payment of a year's salary, which would be worth some £1.5m if he leaves the oil group at the end of 2008, as is currently planned. Others in the top five include Sir Francis Mackay, who stood down as chairman of Compass in the summer (£830,000), Howard Frank, chief operating officer of cruise company Carnival (£795,000), John Sunderland of Cadbury Schweppes (£762,000) and Antony Burgmans of Unilever (£762,000).

The survey, which looks at company annual reports for 2005-06, also found that FTSE 100 directors can often retire at 60, well below the statutory retirement age, which is set to rise to 68 in the coming decades. In some cases they can go much sooner - as was the case when Scottish Power chief executive Ian Russell left earlier this year. His pension was doubled to £6.8m on termination of his contract and he was able to retire immediately at 50. Russell's was the deal that prompted the ABI to write to FTSE companies urging remuneration committees to rein in over-generous pensions.

The report states directors of energy group BG and financial services provider Friends Provident can leave at 55, while those asked to leave drugs group AstraZeneca can retire at 50. Moreover, 77 of the FTSE 100 companies still have final salary schemes for directors. Some 90 FTSE companies have final salary schemes for employees, but most of these have been closed to new members. One top-100 firm, Rentokil Initial, has closed its scheme to existing members.

Labour Research's Neal Moister said: 'It is very hypocritical for so many senior business figures to advocate pushing the state pension age up while they negotiate a completely different set of rules for themselves.' And Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: 'Pensions hypocrisy is a blight on Britain's biggest companies.'

· Marcus Agius will become the bestpaid chairman in the FTSE 100 when he takes over at Barclays in January, earning a quarter more than his nearest rival and 50 per cent above the going rate for Britain's biggest companies.

Agius is to be paid £750,000 a year for a three-day week, a £100,000 increase on the salary of his predecessor, Matt Barrett. According to research by benefit consultancy Independent Remuneration Solutions and voting adviser Manifest, the next highest-paid non-executive chairman is Paul Skinner at Rio Tinto on £591,000, followed by Lord Stevenson at HBOS on £562,000. BP, whose £118bn market value is more than twice Barclays' £43bn, pays its chairman, Peter Sutherland, £500,000 while Vodafone is to pay Sir John Bond, recently appointed as chairman, £475,000.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
The Observer | Business | Fury over pensions bonanza for bosses - observer.guardian.co.uk/...

Oil upheaval unlikely to impact development in short-term


Oil upheaval unlikely to impact development in short-term

IRIN, 29 August 2006 - A spat between the Chadian government and oil companies over revenue-sharing is unlikely to affect the government's obligation to lock oil revenues into development projects, analysts said on Tuesday.

Chad has been pumping oil since 2003 through a project funded by the World Bank and a consortium of oil companies led by US firm ExxonMobil.

As part of its agreement with the World Bank, Chad's 12.5 percent share of oil revenues flows into an independently monitored escrow account. 70 percent of that money is supposed to be put towards development projects.

In an unexpected move, Chadian President Idriss Deby on Sunday expelled from Chad the representatives of two members of the ExxonMobil consortium, Chevron from the US and Petronas of Malaysia.

Deby promised that a recently formed Chadian national oil company would replace the two firms' 60 percent stake in the consortium. He also said the government would be seeking to increase its cut of revenues above the 12.5 percent it currently receives.

“We are engaged in a battle for the economic sovereignty of Chad,” Deby said on Tuesday at a rally outside the presidential palace in central N'djamena. “My decision is risky, but I have taken it at whatever cost.”

Ian Gary, extractive industries analyst at Oxfam in Washington, DC, said that the spat is unlikely to affect Chad's World Bank obligations. “On the surface, this has relatively little impact on that agreement,” he said.

However, should Chad be successful in increasing its cut of the revenues to higher than 12.5 percent, Gary said this would make it all the more important that greater effort be made to monitor the use of Chad's oil revenues.

“We would face the same issues [as we do now] of how to manage this wealth and the utter lack of capacity on behalf of various government ministries to plan and execute development projects,” he said. “So far, most of the money has gone to infrastructure projects and road construction, but there has not been a balance in terms of spending on different sectors like health and education.”

Gary said the Chadian civil society groups tasked with overseeing the use of oil revenues are finding it harder to track oil revenue, because the government budgets have recently started showing all income from oil, taxes, donor funds and other sources as one total.

Deby has said the two firms are being expelled for failing to pay US $350 million in taxes owed to the Chadian state. Both companies said they had signed contracts exempting them from paying taxes. Three government ministers involved in negotiating the contract were subsequently sacked by presidential decree.

Low quality crude oil was discovered in Chad in the 1960s, but investors were turned off by the country's high corruption and successive civil wars. In 1999 the World Bank provided US $190 million to kick-start the project in a plan it hoped would be model for creating transparency and poverty reduction in resource-rich developing countries.

The original deal with the World Bank allocated 70 percent of revenues to development and 10 percent to a “future generations” fund to provide Chad with reserve funds after the oil reserves are exhausted.

It was renegotiated earlier this year when Chad's parliament voted to modify the agreement, cancelling the future generations fund and diverting money away from poverty alleviation.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
Oil upheaval unlikely to impact development in short-term - www.wbcsd.org/...

GE Invests $100 Million to Grow its LED Lighting Business


GE Invests $100 Million to Grow its LED Lighting Business

GreenBiz.com, 1 September 2006 - General Electric says it will invest $100 million to buy out Emcore's interest in its joint venture GELcore, which makes energy-efficient LED lighting for outdoor and transportation-related signs.

GELcore, formed in 1999, was previously a joint venture between GE and the Emcore Corporation of Somerset, NJ.

The company also announced a strategic partnership with the Nichia Corporation, a leading manufacturer of optoelectronics products, for cellular phones, digital cameras, traffic signals, full-color displays, electronics signboards, and optical storages. Nichia is headquartered in Japan and has operations throughout the world.

GE says the agreement combines GELcore's LED system strengths in the Transportation, Signage, Specialty Illumination, and General Illumination segments with Nichia's extensive phosphor and optoelectronics products, such as LEDs. Both companies expect to benefit significantly from each other's expertise and penetrate the high-growth LED general illumination segment.

"This agreement is a true win-win outcome for both parties and clearly demonstrates GE's commitment to solid state lighting technology. GE and Nichia's combined excellence creates a preeminent alliance that is ideally suited to support GELcore's efforts to accelerate the growth and penetration of LED-based lighting solutions in the $12 billion global lighting segment," said Michael B. Petras, Jr., Vice President, Electrical Distribution & Lighting.

Noboru Tazaki, Executive Vice President & COO of Nichia, states, "This is a historic agreement when you consider that GE, a world leader in traditional lighting technology and LED systems and Nichia, a world leader in phosphor and optoelectronics technology are joining forces to advance LED technology and accelerate the penetration of LEDs into the general lighting industry."

Note created Sep 5, 2006
GE Invests $100 Million to Grow its LED Lighting Business - www.wbcsd.org/...


Climate change - Future-proofing and the fossil fuel industry
Ben Schiller, Europe writer
31 Aug 06


Warming not just the air


Oil and gas companies have yet to implement substantive carbon-reduction strategies despite a rethink on climate change in recent years, a new report says
A new study of the corporate responsibility reporting and performance of the world’s 19 largest oil and gas companies says the sector is largely shying away from addressing its impacts on society and the environment.

Munich-based Oekom Research’s report analyses companies’ performance on issues such as climate change, product stewardship and relations with suppliers and other partners.

It concludes that while the companies were starting to develop “environmental consciences”, their actions remain piecemeal, and few have implemented “future-proofed” strategies.

Overall, Suncor Energy of Canada and Norsk Hydro of Norway scored best, receiving Bs on a ranking of A+ to D-. France’s Total and BG of the UK were not far behind.

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The North American groups Chevron, ExxonMobil and EnCana came bottom, with C- scores.

The research was based on information published in sustainability and annual reports, codes of conduct, and on websites, with companies being asked to submit additional information when required.

Oekom also surveyed non-governmental organisations and news accounts to get a sense of how the companies were perceived.

Evelyn Bohle, senior analyst at Oekom, says Norsk and Suncor’s performance is partly attributable to the high standards expected in their home countries.

In Suncor’s case, it operates only in Canada and thus is not faced with the same ethical dilemmas as some companies operating in the developing world (for example, Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria).

Oekom takes a close look at what the sector is saying and doing on climate change. It says most of the companies have moved on from a few years ago, with a process of “rethinking” at least now underway.

But only some of the companies have actually started to re-engineer their businesses and a widening gap is emerging as to how companies are approaching the global warming issue.

Industry inertia


Some companies, such as BP and Shell, have issued public warnings about the consequences of inertia, and Repsol, Norsk Hydro and Total lead the others in developing and implementing strategies to reduce their emissions.

That contrasts with the likes of ExxonMobil, EnCana, Nexen, Chevron, and Petro-Canada, which fail even to acknowledge publicly that climate change is a man-made phenomenon, and that as producers of fossils fuels their responsibilities are more sizeable than most.

“As a major emitter of greenhouse gases, the oil and gas sector has a special responsibility to take comprehensive measures to reduce these emissions,” Bohle says.

The report concedes that refocusing entrenched businesses away from harmful fuels towards renewable energies will take years. But there are some things the companies could do more immediately to prove their goodwill.

Burning issue


One is ending gas flaring – thought to be a major contributor to global warming, with the equivalent of Germany and France’s combined gas use being burned off worldwide every day.

Oekom says none of the companies has made a firm commitment to end the practice, which the companies say is necessary when gas is the surplus product of oil drilling and sites lack infrastructure to make use of the gas.

Another issue is tanker safety. According to the report’s authors, much of the sector is “extremely hesitant” in moving towards better standards and lacks transparency on its policies.

Only Norsk Hydro and Repsol have introduced age limits for their fleets, and only Norsk insists exclusively on double-hulled tankers.

Oekom says Suncor, BP and Shell are leading the industry in their investment and focus on developing renewable fuel technologies.

Overall, the switch to renewable fuels has hardly been rapid so far, the report concludes.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
Ethical Corporation: Strategy & Management - Climate change - Future-proofing and the fossil fuel in - www.ethicalcorp.com/...

China ’s factories - Exploitation ain't what it used to be


China’s factories - Exploitation ain't what it used to be
Sam Chambers
30 Aug 06


In Guangdong, sweatshop owners are starting to feel the heat


The net is closing on companies that think they can get away with exploiting workers in China
Foreign companies looking to make a fast buck in the Pearl river delta at the expense of cheap, poorly treated Chinese workers should watch out.

Guangdong province, which under Deng Xiaopeng led the mainland’s capitalist charge, is now the torchbearer in upholding workers’ rights – with a slew of crackdowns, blacklists and landmark court cases so far this year.

The temperature for sweatshop owners has risen as authorities have moved to deal with a dwindling labour force issue.

Take 33-year-old Feng Xingzhong, for instance. This Sichuan native won a record 463,700 yuan (£31,500) in compensation at the end of 2005 after nearly three years in the courts.

The jewellery worker contracted life-threatening silicosis (a lung condition caused by exposure to silica dust) while working in a Hong Kong factory owned by Ko Ngar Gems.

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The verdict came at a sensitive time for local authorities, which since the end of 2004 have had to grapple with labour shortages for the first time, with constant reports of high worker turnover, higher wage demands and the increasing difficulty to operate factories at full capacity.

Guangdong authorities have had to come to terms with migrant workers opting to work nearer their ever more bustling hometowns, or continue farming, as agricultural taxes have decreased, or move to the Yangtze Delta area around Shanghai, where new factories are providing better salaries, improved accommodation and a safer environment.

Named and shamed


In September 2005, the Guangdong Provincial Labour and Social Security Department published the first blacklist of 20 “bloody” companies that were defaulting on employees’ wages. Besides receiving media attention, the blacklist was also distributed to local job fairs.

Among the 20 companies, 12 paid their workers in full by December when the department publicised its second blacklist.

The department also required more than 6,000 non-public enterprises to self-regulate and about 15% of them admitted that they deferred in paying their workers.

Another Guangdong blacklist was issued at the end of June, with 30 firms cited. The 30 companies, most of which are private, have defaulted a total of more than 20 million yuan, affecting more than 8,000 workers.

“The actual number of companies that are defaulting on wages is very large. We blacklisted these 30 companies because they refused to mend their ways after repeated education, warnings or even heavy punishments,” says Zhang Xiang, director of the publicity office of Guangdong Provincial Labour and Social Security Department.

One company on the blacklist, Guangzhou Baoying Shoes Factory, hit the headlines last year after it defaulted on wages of 586 staff valued at more than two million yuan.

The workers protested against the factory and there were fierce fights with security staff. Eventually they went to court, with the company arguing that it was bankrupt after the finance director absconded with all the money.

The court auctioned the factory for 1.2 million yuan, to pay some of the salaries.

A report provided to China Youth Daily by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in November 2005 showed most of the migrant workers in Shenzhen factories worked for more than 26 days a month, much more than the maximum 11 working hours a day (including overtime) allowed under Chinese law, and international codes of conduct.

Just over half the workers had never been paid for working for extra hours, (although double rate overtime pay is required under Chinese law), while 76% did not get extra pay for working on holidays, which is also required.

Failing to pay


At the start of this year, the bosses of eight employers in Shenzhen were detained for intentionally defaulting on seven million yuan in the wages of 1,200 workers – the first arrest of its type.

The bosses were accused of refusing to pay their workers their wages between 2004 and 2005 by means of fabricating facts, changing their companies’ names, writing blank payment cheques, reporting false registered capital, illegally producing and using official seals, illegally transferring assets, and running away to avoid being punished, local police said.

The Shenzhen police also announced another 30 businesses that failed to pay wages, nine of which are textile and garment companies.

In April, 3,000 workers of a Hong Kong-owned furniture factory staged a protest at a guesthouse frequented by state leaders, complaining against forced unpaid overtime work and abuses, including having 200 workers, each of whom was allowed to leave their post for toilet breaks or water one time a day, and allowed only two rest days per month.

Guangdong’s crackdowns are being replicated throughout the country.

In a report delivered in December 2005 during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Tenth National People’s Congress – China’s top legislature – He Luli, vice-chairman of the committee, said the government hopes to settle all overdue pay owed by employers to workers by the end of 2007.

“Social conflicts triggered by overdue salaries, especially by employers who escape and hide, are on the rise, seriously undermining social stability,” he said.


Useful links:

www.csr-asia.com
www.chinalaborwatch.org
Note created Sep 5, 2006
Ethical Corporation: Asia-Pacific - China’s factories - Exploitation ain't what it used to be - www.ethicalcorp.com/...

Junk food makers using internet to target children, says watchdog


Junk food makers using internet to target children, says watchdog

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Wednesday September 6, 2006

The Guardian

Children are being targeted by junk food manufacturers through internet advertising, chatrooms, text messages and "advergames" on websites, an obesity watchdog warned yesterday, calling for global action to protect their health.

Self-regulation by the food industry has failed, according to a report from the UK-based International Obesity Task Force to a conference in Sydney, Australia. "New forms of advertising are increasingly being employed which bypass parental control and target children directly," says the report by Tim Lobstein, coordinator of the taskforce's childhood obesity group.

Article continues
"These include internet promotion (using interactive games, free downloads, blogs and chatterbots), SMS texting to children's cell phones, product promotions in schools and pre-schools and brand advertising in educational materials."

During three months of 2005 more than 12.2 million children visited commercial websites promoting food and drinks. A survey by the Food Commission that year found that most big food brands had websites and many have sites specifically aimed at children as young as six.

The report says that internet advertising is rapidly expanding, using a range of technologies such as flash-animated games and online chat rooms. One popular form is the "text 2 win" competition, offering children prizes to text the code from a specially-printed pack. Fanta and Cadbury are among the companies that have run successful campaigns.

Viral marketing generated interest among school children for Real Fruit Winders. Kellogg's, the manufacturer, launched an interactive website which included animated icons children could email to their friends. A McDonald's website offered free e-postcards. Pepsi has an online game in which characters race to serve thirsty customers.

At the International Congress on Obesity yesterday, the Global Prevention Alliance - an umbrella organisation representing concerned non-governmental organisations - called on the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies and governments to develop international standards to protect children from the marketing of junk food.



Special reports

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The BSE crisis
The GM food debate
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Note created Sep 6, 2006
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Junk food makers using internet to target children, says watc - www.guardian.co.uk/.

Reducing the cost per Watt for solar power


Reducing the cost per Watt for solar power

(link to this article)

September 6, 2006 As worldwide energy demand continues to rise, the overall solar equipment market is expected to grow from approximately US$1 billion in 2006 to more than US$3 billion in 2010. Applied Materials is best known for providing equipment and services for manufacturing semiconductors and flat panel displays, but yesterday announced it is poised to enter the rapidly growing solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment market. The idea is to use bring technology and process innovations from the flat panel and semiconductor industries plus a combination of manufacturing tools, to enable customers to increase conversion efficiency and yields, helping to lower the overall cost per watt for solar electricity users. This week, Applied is exhibiting at the world's largest solar show, the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference in Dresden, Germany, showcasing several PVD and PECVD products as well as processes, material-handling technologies and services to support solar cell production for both crystalline-silicon and thin-film solar applications.

"The solar industry has reached the inflection point that Applied Materials has been waiting for, as solar customers seek economies of scale with suppliers who can better meet their needs for global support and who can provide advanced systems that meet technology, throughput, quality and yield goals," said Mike Splinter, president and CEO. "We plan to change the cost equation for solar power through adaptation of our existing technology and new innovation in order to help make solar a more meaningful contributor to the global energy supply."

"Our solar PV products, together with our roadmap for new technology and services, provide an exciting new growth engine for Applied Materials," said Mark Pinto, senior vice president and chief technology officer. "We have assembled a team of industry veterans who, combined with our global reach and technology leadership in semiconductors and flat panel display equipment, can enable customers to move through the expected transition from small-scale 20MW-40MW factories to sophisticated gigawatt-level facilities."

This week, at the world's largest solar show, the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference in Dresden, Germany, Applied is showcasing several PVD and PECVD products as well as processes, material-handling technologies and services to support solar cell production for both crystalline-silicon and thin-film solar applications. These include Applied Materials' ATON in-line sputtering system, which is already installed in numerous customer locations around the world and which provides quality deposition, high throughput and lower cost of ownership for both thin-film and multi- or mono-crystalline silicon. Other products highlighted at the show include Applied Materials' New Aristo in-line PVD/CVD system, PECVD technology and the SmartWeb PV roll-to-roll coater for flexible solar cell applications.

"We believe that Applied Materials is the right company, at the right time, with the right technologies to lead the next wave of solar industry growth," continued Splinter. "This is an exciting new chapter in Applied Materials' growth story, and we are confident that our experience, products and nanomanufacturing technology solutions can advance the industry and improve people's lives through cleaner, more affordable energy."

Note created Sep 6, 2006
gizmag Article: Reducing the cost per Watt for solar power - www.gizmag.com/...

Where the wild things are: Not where they used to be, as the world gets warmer


Where the wild things are

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Not where they used to be, as the world gets warmer

CorbisA chequered future

EDITH'S CHECKERSPOT is an unremarkable brown, white and black spotted butterfly whose main distinguishing characteristic is that it is watched, with obsessive but benevolent attention, by Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the University of Texas. Ms Parmesan is troubled by what is happening to the butterfly. The populations at the southernmost end of its range, in California, have been dying out. The vegetation it lives on is getting dryer, which makes it hard for newborn caterpillars to survive.

“The tiny, one-to-two-day-old caterpillars were unable to walk the inch or more to nearby plants and thus starved to death,” records Ms Parmesan in a paper on the subject. (The source is affectionately cited as: Parmesan, personal observation.) The species' range has extended 55 miles (88km) northwards, but that is not much help to the three endangered subspecies—the bay checkerspot, Taylor's checkerspot and Quino checkerspot—living at the southern end of its range.

Whereas people these days are mostly able to adapt their environment to suit themselves, the world's other inhabitants still have to adapt themselves to their environment. When circumstances change, they adjust in two main ways: by changing the timing of important life events, such as hibernation, migration and breeding; or, like Edith's checkerspot, by moving to find more comfortable living quarters.

Ms Parmesan and Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University, Connecticut, who looked at data on how species were adapting, found that, of a total of 677, nearly two-thirds had brought forward the important events in their calendar. The Mexican jay in the Chiricuahua Mountains in Arizona, for instance, is breeding ten days earlier than it was 30 years ago. Tree swallows' breeding season advanced by an average of nine days between 1959 and 1991. In the Rocky Mountains, the yellow-bellied marmot is emerging from hibernation 23 days earlier than it did in the 1970s.

Of the 434 species that had moved their range, four-fifths had moved northwards or to higher ground. The red fox, for instance, has colonised an extra 600 miles of Baffin Island. That's fine for the red fox, which, as the owner of any British dustbin knows, is in no danger of dying out, but less good for the Arctic fox at whose heels it is snapping.

Still, there is only so far a species can move, as the polar bear has found to its cost. Thinning Arctic ice is making hunting more difficult for it, and there is nowhere colder to go. The only long-term study of a polar-bear population—from Hudson Bay, in Manitoba in Canada—suggests that the animals are, on average, 15% thinner than they were 30 years ago. The population has dropped by 17% in the past ten years. America's Fish and Wildlife Service is thinking of putting the polar bear on the endangered-species list.

Some species, of course, are doing very nicely out of climate change. Warming aside, plants are likely to flourish with more carbon dioxide around. Northern areas are likely to see an increasing diversity of species.

There is, however, a common difficulty for all animals and plants: they find it harder to adapt these days because people get in the way. Cities, roads, farmland and all the other manifestations of human civilisation leave less space for other species. That is one reason why some of them are in danger of dying out. Chris Thomas, professor of conservation biology at Leeds University in Britain, and colleagues, reckon that, if the IPCC's mid-range climate-change scenario (a 2-3°C increase by 2100) is right, between 15% and 37% of the species whose prospects they modelled will be extinct by 2050.

Note created Sep 7, 2006
Where the wild things are | Economist.com - www.economist.com/...

Selling hot air: Kyoto's main achievement was to create a market in carbon. It's flawed, but better than nothing


Selling hot air

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Kyoto's main achievement was to create a market in carbon. It's flawed, but better than nothing

THE huge hall at the Kölnmesse, Cologne's massive conference centre, looks like any other trade fair: rows of sellers' booths, some with buyers milling around them, some deserted. The participants' costume is a little unusual—not just the standard suits, but also chinos and T-shirts with green slogans. But what is being sold is very different: industrial gases to be captured from Chinese factories, trees to be planted in Africa, methane to be extracted from pig-effluent in Brazil. This is the carbon market, the main achievement of the Kyoto protocol.

Kyoto was a hard-fought attempt to do something immensely difficult: create a global mechanism for solving a long-term problem. Not surprisingly, its achievements have been limited. America and Australia did not ratify the treaty. Canada looks as though it may fail to comply. It signed up for a 6% reduction below 1990 levels by 2012, but the latest figures suggest that it is now running around 23% above 1990 levels. According to the new environment minister, Rona Ambrose, “it is impossible, impossible, for Canada to reach its Kyoto targets.”

Japan is supposed to be cutting its emissions to 6% below 1990 levels. It has no mandatory scheme, but many companies are participating in a voluntary one. Still, emissions are currently running at 24% above 1990 levels, so it will probably have to buy credits from other countries.

The EU has taken Kyoto most seriously. In 2005 it launched the European Emissions-Trading Scheme (ETS), which is supposed to cut emissions from the EU's five dirtiest industries. Most big European countries have additional schemes to penalise big CO2 emitters and to boost renewables, which is why wind farms are sprouting all over Europe. Some big European countries, such as Germany, France and Britain, are either near to meeting their targets or have already done so by cutting domestic emissions. Others, such as Spain and Italy, are further behind.

America was heavily involved in the design of the Kyoto protocol, and insisted that it should include the possibility of a market in emissions credits, on the ground that its trading scheme to reduce sulphur-dioxide emissions had been a big success. Europe reluctantly agreed and, once America walked away from Kyoto, turned out to be the mainstay of the carbon market that the protocol has created.

The carbon market works like any other commodity market: companies trade and the market sets prices. But it is unusual in that the commodity being bought and sold does not exist: it is the certified absence of carbon emissions. The market is big, and growing fast. In the first half of 2006, carbon to the value of €12 billion ($15 billion) was traded, five times more than in the same period in 2005.

There are two parts to the carbon market. The first, and largest in terms of cash, is the trade in allowances handed out to companies in the EU's five dirtiest industries under the ETS. Those companies have also been given emissions-reduction targets, which they can meet by cutting their own emissions, or by buying allowances from other companies, or by purchasing credits from developing countries. That is the second bit of the carbon market. The trade in allowances does not actually reduce emissions. The trade in developing-country credits does.

The Carbon Fair in Cologne, organised by the World Bank, is the annual get-together of the second bit of the market. The buyers are from the participants in Europe's ETS and Japan's voluntary-reduction scheme. The sellers are developing countries. The rich countries that ratified Kyoto are expected to produce 3.5 billion tonnes of carbon above their targets by 2012, so the prospects for sellers look good.

Some of the sellers at the Kölnmesse are more popular and better organised than others. The Chinese state planning committee stall has a glossy 200-page book crammed with projects, and a crowd of potential buyers. The man on the Senegalese stall has a photocopied piece of paper with six projects, and no customers.

The middlemen are niche investment banks, such as Climate Change Capital and Natsource, and project-management companies, such as Camco and AgCert. Camco, which floated earlier this year, works mainly in China. It identifies factories that emit lots of greenhouse gases and works out how to cut emissions; AgCert builds sealed pools to contain the pig-effluent in Brazil and Mexico, captures the methane it produces and burns it to produce electricity.

Projects have to be certified by the UN. Most involve cutting emissions not of CO2 but of more potent greenhouse gases. HFC, for example, an industrial gas, has 11,000 times the greenhouse effect of CO2. Some 58% of the credits sold between January 2005 and March 2006 were for HFC projects. Capturing it costs little—under $1 per tonne of CO2-equivalent—and selling it is lucrative. Thanks to the insatiable demand for credits, developing-country sellers have been getting up to $24 a tonne. Two Chinese deals alone, set up by the World Bank, which has put together a consortium of buyers, are worth $930m. At current prices, China is reckoned to have about $6 billion-7 billion-worth of HFCs that could be captured.

Not surprisingly, given both Chinese efficiency and the amount of dirty industry in the country, two-thirds of the deals signed between January 2005 and March 2006, by value, were with China. Keen to keep hold of the cash for its own purposes, the Chinese government has slapped a 65% tax on HFC projects and is funnelling the money into a “sustainable development” fund. “Sustainable development!” snorts a Chinese official. “It'll be spent on infrastructure.”


All right for some

Observers have three concerns about the carbon market. The first is about profits and prices. Giving the ETS allowances away (rather than auctioning them) made the scheme easy for the power-generators and other polluters to swallow. But it also, in effect, handed them wads of cash: they simply passed the extra costs on to consumers and pocketed the money. According to a report by IPA Energy Consulting, Britain's power-generation sector alone made a profit of around £800m ($1.5 billion) from the scheme in its first year.

Meanwhile, power prices went up steeply. According to a paper by Jos Sijm of the Energy Research Centre in the Netherlands, when allowances were €20 a tonne, European generators passed on between €1 and €19 per MWh to customers, depending on the structure of the market and the sources of electricity. In France, where the price is determined largely by carbon-free nuclear generation, they passed on least. In Germany, where it is largely determined by coal, they passed on most. Partly as a result, German off-peak electricity prices doubled in the two years to January 2006, to just over €40 per MWh, setting consumers squawking.

The second worry is about the purchase of credits from developing countries. Partly thanks to the Chinese government's 65% tax on emissions-reduction credits, European companies are paying many times the actual cost of reducing emissions. That price they pay is passed on to European consumers, who may eventually revolt when they realise how much money they are pouring into Chinese government coffers.

Third, the time-horizons for Kyoto (up to 2012) and, even more, for the ETS (whose first period runs only up to 2008) are too short. So whereas projects in the near term (such as capturing nasty Chinese gases) are financially worthwhile, longer-term ones that may be just as desirable (such as investing in cleaner power-generating plant) are not.

All that said, this is the first attempt to deal rationally with a hugely complex problem, so it would be odd if it did not encounter difficulties. And it has made some headway: last year it got rich-world consumers to invest $2.7 billion to cut developing-country greenhouse-gas emissions by around 374m tonnes of CO2 equivalent. That is only about half of Texas's annual emissions—but it's a start.

Note created Sep 7, 2006
Selling hot air | Economist.com - www.economist.com/...


EPA moves to implement renewable fuels mandate

Greenwire, 8 September 2006 - U.S. EPA took a big step today toward implementing the most publicly discussed portion of last year's Energy Policy Act by proposing a regulatory system that will nearly double domestic biofuel use.

The regulation, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), establishes a credit-trading system that will mandate the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol nationwide by 2012 -- up from 4 billion gallons this year.

EPA touted the proposed rule as a significant step to reducing both domestic gasoline use and some air pollutants, as well as providing a boost to the agricultural sector.

"For years, our nation's rolling farm fields have filled America's breadbaskets," Administrator Stephen Johnson said. "Now, by helping meet President Bush's renewable energy goals, these same fields are filling America's gas tanks."

The agency estimates that by 2012 the mandate will reduce petroleum consumption by somewhere between 2.3 billion to 3.9 billion gallons -- slightly more than 1 percent of the petroleum that would be used in the transportation sector.

EPA's analysis also estimates the mandate will result in reduction of several pollutants -- carbon monoxide emissions will be cut by 1.3 to 3.6 percent, benzene emissions will be cut by 1.7 to 6.2 percent and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 0.4 to 0.6 percent.

But the increased ethanol use is also anticipated to increase emissions of volatile organic compounds plus nitrogen oxides by up to 97,000 tons.

Additionally, agency estimates show that the mandate will increase the cost of a gallon of gasoline by somewhere between 0.3 and 1 cent per gallon.

But refining industry officials disputed some of the EPA's claims on price and pollution reductions, saying that a federal mandate could drive inflate prices while doing little to actually increase renewable fuel use.

"Given widespread agreement that there will be a continuing need for [biofuels] in the future, as there is today, government intervention to mandate their inclusion only raises the cost of manufacturing the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies," National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Bob Slaughter said in a statement. "The mandate requires that consumers pay more for renewable materials that would have been available at lower, market-based prices if no mandate existed."

Additionally, Slaughter questioned the agency's projection that the new mandate would result in a slight reduction in GHG emissions.

"Experts who have studied the impact of renewables' use on greenhouse gas emissions strongly disagree on whether any reduction occurs if all factors, including crop production, are considered," Slaughter said. "The consensus on this point would appear to be that there is only a marginal reduction, if any."

Air quality advocates also expressed concern this morning about the anticipated increase in some other pollutants.

"Energy independence and protection of public health need not be mutually exclusive," said Bill Becker, head of two associations representing state and local air pollution officials. "We are troubled that EPA's proposal will significantly increase smog-forming emissions in many areas of the country. We are further concerned that these increases will obstruct state strategies to meet the health-based smog standards."

Besides just officially putting in place the mandate, EPA's far-reaching proposal outlines a complex credit-trading system that will be used to regulate the ethanol market.

EPA's proposal identifies exactly who can generate credits for ethanol, how the credits can be transferred and the different values for credits depending on certain types of fuel.

The proposal calls for identifying each gallon of renewable fuel with a unique 34-character renewable identification number (RIN). A gallon of corn-based ethanol will essentially equal 1 RIN, while other biofuels would have different values. A gallon of cellulosic ethanol would be worth 2.5 RIN while a gallon of biodiesel would have 1.5 times the value.

Fuel refiners and importers are designated as "obligated parties" for meeting the RFS mandate. Obligated parties can either blend their prescribed amounts of renewable fuels into gasoline or can purchase the RIN credits if they do not want to use the biofuel.

Additionally, EPA's proposed policy includes a slew of compliance provisions -- including such as requirements for record-keeping, facility registration and fuel tracking.

EPA has spent much of the last year building the ethanol credit-trading system essentially from scratch. Although last year's energy bill set specific annual levels for ethanol use, it provided little guidance to the agency as to exactly how to regulate the ethanol markets.

Still, Bill Wehrum, EPA acting assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday that the agency believes that it has put together a proposal that "broad stakeholder support" and can be adopted fairly quickly.

EPA intends to finalize the rule by early 2007, although Wehrum also said yesterday that schedule may slip unless the agency receives additional funding from Congress.

The agency is seeking more than $11 million dollars from Congress for fiscal 2007 to implement the rule. But the Interior-Environment Senate bill currently awaiting floor consideration would give the agency $1.4 million for implementation of the rule and the already-approved House spending bill contains roughly $2.4 million for the program.

Wehrum indicated yesterday that the RFS would remain a high-priority for the agency, but he said the potential cuts would slow the regulatory process either for that rule or other air pollution regulations.

"We would have to go through another priority review the way we did this year," Wehrum said. "What we may or may not do in the future depends on what Congress may or may not appropriate."

Although the RFS has been touted as a major victory for ethanol producers and has been as cited as perhaps the driving force behind the recent ethanol boon, some experts predict the plan may have a relatively short shelf-life.

The RFS mandates the use of roughly 4 billion gallons in 2005, but current projections show that domestic ethanol could approach 5 billion gallons. And with close to 40 new ethanol plants being built nationwide, federal officials and independent observers say the actual ethanol market may far outpace the RFS mandate.

"At this pace we will easily surpass the goal of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said during a meeting with reporters this morning. "We'll hit that 7.5 billion number pretty quickly. I don't know that it will be next year, but its not far off."

Some lawmakers have already introduced legislation to increase the mandate and a push for a policy will likely come when Congress begins putting together the energy title of the farm bill next year.

Note created Sep 15, 2006
EPA moves to implement renewable fuels mandate - www.wbcsd.org/...

Oil firms 'hushing up' crisis of corroding pipelines


Oil firms 'hushing up' crisis of corroding pipelines
By David Robertson


THE oil industry is hushing up the extent to which corrosion is eating into pipelines and hitting production, the head of the Royal Society of Chemistry has told The Times.

Richard Pike, who spent 25 years working for BP before becoming a consultant to a number of global oil and gas companies, said that some of the world’s largest oilfields had cut production or been shut down recently so that corroded pipelines could be fixed before they leaked.




He declined to name the companies involved because of confidentiality agreements signed during his work as a consultant. But he said that major repair projects had been initiated in the Middle East, Russia and India.

Dr Pike estimated that the cumulative effect of these closures could be equivalent to BP’s recent shutdown at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, which has focused world attention on the issue of corroding oil equipment and its potential to cause an environmental catastrophe.

Dr Pike said: “People are keeping this quiet and just getting on with it because there is an awful risk that the outside world will overreact. They don’t want to broadcast it because the reaction can get out of control.”

This month BP closed half the giant Prudhoe Bay field, which accounts for 8 per cent of United States production, after discovering that pipes feeding the trans-Alaskan pipeline were badly corroded. Repairs are expected to take until the end of the year.

The company confirmed yesterday that oil production would be reduced further by a malfunctioning compessor, which would take several days to fix. Prudhoe, which normally produces 400,000 barrels per day, is now down to 110,000.

BP expects the cost of replacing the pipeline to be about $170 million (£90 million) and Dr Pike said that other companies were also putting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle corrosion problems. He said: “The companies I have seen have had the good management sense to recognise their corrosion problems and they are earmarking hundreds of millions to investigating and rectifying the problem.”

Following the shutdown at Prudhoe BP has been accused of neglecting maintenance and the group is being investigated by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Alaska. BP has denied these allegations and has said that it has properly maintained Prudhoe Bay.

The corrosion problem at Prudhoe was discovered on August 6 when workers stripped off pipe insulation and 200 gallons of oil leaked out. The pipe wall was subsequently discovered to be exceptionally thin.

The problem first came to light in March when a corroded pipe caused 200,000 gallons of crude oil to leak — the largest spill in the North Slope area of Alaska.Corrosion can occur to the outside of a pipeline through normal environmental exposure but it also occurs internally, which is much harder to detect. Internal corrosion can be caused by sulphate-reducing bacteria, which live in water that is used to force the oil out of the ground.

Dr Pike said: “A lot of the big oil assets are being kept going beyond their 25-year lifespan and it is inevitable that we are beginning to see these sorts of problems.”

Kevin Norrish, oil analyst at Barclays Capital, said: “The issue of corrosion is a wider one than just a problem for BP. For a long time costs have been driven down and I’d be surprised if Prudhoe was an isolated incident. In the light of what is happening I expect a lot of companies are now taking a close look at their maintenance records.”



Note created Aug 28, 2006
Oil firms 'hushing up' crisis of corroding pipelines - Markets - Times Online - business.timesonline.co.uk/...

Businesses pay more to lure staff to polluted Hong Kong


Businesses pay more to lure staff to polluted Hong Kong

By Justine Lau in Hong Kong

Published: September 4 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 4 2006 03:00

Half of Hong Kong-based companies have to pay more to lure expatriates to move to the territory because of worsening air pollution, according to a new study by Hudson human resources consultancy.

The survey, to be released this week, comes after Victor Fung, a senior Hong Kong government adviser, admitted deteriorating air quality was affecting companies' investment decisions.

"More people are now seeing Hong Kong as a hardship posting," said Gary Lazzarotto, Hudson's chief executive officer in Asia.

According to the survey of 274 senior executives, mostly from multinationals, 35 per cent of companies are having difficulties in persuading foreign workers to move to Hong Kong because of air pollution.

About 52 per cent of the respondents said they had to offer overseas executives more incentives to move to Hong Kong, including "much higher" salary packages and higher housing allowances.

"There is a fierce war for talents in Asia but Hong Kong is fighting its battle [with] one hand behind its back," Mr Lazzarotto said.

Although most of Hong Kong's air pollution is created by factories across the territory's border in Guangdong, cars and power plants in the territory also account for a large portion.

The Hong Kong government launched an "Action Blue Sky" campaign in July to encourage less electricity consumption by turning down air conditioners and dressing down.

It also argues that in spite of pollution, international companies are continuing to invest in Hong Kong. According to Invest Hong Kong, the government's inward investment agency, the number of Chinese mainland and Taiwan companies with regional headquarters, offices or local operations in the territory has risen from 5,414 in 2003 to 6,272 last year.

But Hong Kong's thick smog is already driving expatriates away. According to the survey, 44 per cent of respondents said foreign workers were leaving the territory as a direct result of air pollution. Among those who were relocating to other countries, 34 per cent chose Singapore and 21 per cent went to Australia.

"If you give someone a regional role and ask them to choose to be based in Hong Kong or Singapore, most people are going to say Singapore," said Mr Lazzarotto.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
FT.com / Business Life / Business travel - Businesses pay more to lure staff to polluted Hong Kong - www.ft.com/...

Editorials - What transparency looks like: More companies should take a leaf out of the books of Boots and Citigroup


Editorials - What transparency looks like
EC Newsdesk
31 Aug 06


Not ivory towers


More companies should take a leaf out of the books of Boots and Citigroup
What transparency looks like

Never in five years of publishing has Ethical Corporation spent half a day with most of the management team of a major FTSE company discussing corporate responsibility and what it means to the business.

Not until, that is, a recent interview with Boots chief executive Richard Baker (see p32) led to several hours spent with the finance director, operations director, environment manager, head of corporate social responsibility and a group of socially responsible investment analysts.

The SRI analysts were deeply impressed by the management’s commitments to operating sustainably at Boots, and by the fact that the company took them, and Ethical Corporation, through the annual financial results first.

This provided insight into both the pressures the firm faces from the business press and investors, and how its corporate responsibility strategy fits in with its operating model.

The approachability of Baker and his team, and their attitude to corporate responsibility, are refreshing and welcome. If only more companies were as open as Boots about their work, and their challenges, the agenda would more forward faster.

Citigroup is another company that has displayed humility in the responsibility debate. Unusually for such a large company, it is candid about the challenges it has faced in recent years.

Since 2003, Citigroup has been one of the leading global institutions on responsible finance, even attracting plaudits from Friends of the Earth.

A recent couple of hours spent with several senior executives in Citigroup’s Manhattan offices revealed that they have an admirable commitment to transparency and dialogue that many others in their sector might learn from.

The business case chestnut


Yes, it’s back. The business case raises its confused head once more above the publishing parapet in this month’s issue of Ethical Corporation.

We apologise to those readers heartily sick of the often technical discussions on the subject.

As one of our readers put it to the editor during the writing of our round-up of the latest evidence from academics and the like, “does it really matter anyway?” – especially if corporate social responsibility is simply what stakeholders expect?

Readers can make up their own mind, beginning on p34.

Corporate soul


Journalists are fond of mocking company pronouncements on how they see themselves.

Such musings are often an easy target, but Barclays chief executive John Varley makes a convincing case (p13) for the concept of corporate soul.

Varley is making a serious point about something inherent to most, if not all, great companies.

Call it soul, call it character, whatever.

We know good businesses have it, and it is based on principles.

The corporate responsibility debate can help companies think about these principles harder, and so if Varley wants to call it soul, so be it.

CSR is dead, long live CSO


While the three-letter business acronym in general might be better off dead, nevertheless many are beginning to claim the death of corporate social responsibility and advocate its offspring, sustainable development.

While a wider approach to global challenges may be in some senses laudable, companies must be careful not to broaden things too far.

Making overly bold claims might backfire in the face of rising stakeholder expectations.

That said, a gradual progression to sustainable development is probably the way to go.

But how about another three-letter acronym in the meantime, now that ambition is now taking centre stage in place of risk mitigation in smart companies?

Step forward the replacement of your CSR director, the head of corporate social opportunity.


editor@ethicalcorp.com
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Fast food chain to feed need for basic numeracy

Fast food chain to feed need for basic numeracy

By Jon Boone,Education Correspondent

Published: September 19 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 19 2006
03:00

McDonald's employees are to receive official qualifications in basic
numeracy and literacy by taking tests in the fast food chain's own
restaurants, the company announced yesterday.

The chain is the country's largest employer of under 21s, many of
whom do not have formal qualifications.

The company said the GCSE-equivalent qualification had been designed
to "plug the skills gaps" of many of its under-qualified young
workers and would be delivered through a website and studied in the
restaurants.

The qualification is judged to be of the same level of difficulty,
but not breadth, as GCSEs and, while e-learning is increasingly
common in big companies, the McDonald's scheme is the first such
work-based training qualification to be delivered entirely
electronically.

The Learning and Skills Council, the government agency responsible
for post-16 education and training, said making basic qualifications
available at the "click of a mouse" was a significant step forward.

McDonald's said it ex-pected 1,000 staff would gain the nationally
recognised qualifications in the next 12 months after sitting a test
at a restaurant accredited as an exam centre.

David Fairhurst, McDonald's vice-president for people, said online
delivery would help overcome the "stigma" linked to gaining basic
skills. "It brings a new convenience to learning and removes the
barriers of travelling to colleges and other adult education learning
centres to sit exams."

He said more businesses needed to help their staff with basic skills
to "ensure that the dire predictions of a lost generation with basic
skills deficiencies does not become a reality that holds business and
Britain back".

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A recent endowment shows how business schools can use alumni to promote corporate responsibility


Academic centres - A growth market
John Russell, Deputy Editor
30 Aug 06


Ethics education: signs are good


A recent endowment shows how business schools can use alumni to promote corporate responsibility
Cranfield School of Management is to receive a £3 million donation to set up a centre for corporate responsibility.

The centre, which should open early next year, will research, teach and consult on everything from corporate governance to sustainable development.

The donation – the largest ever received by the school – shows how alumni can help mainstream corporate responsibility in business schools.

The donor, Nigel Doughty, co-founder of investment fund Doughty Hanson & Co, is an MBA alumnus from Cranfield.

Doughty was the obvious person for Cranfield to approach, given his contact with the school and interest in corporate responsibility. In 2004, he became the second winner of the school’s “Distinguished Alumnus Award”.

Professor Michael Osbaldeston, director of the management school, says: “This is a deliberate attempt on our part to identify individuals able to help us financially, with interests and causes they and we wish to pursue.”

A rich vein

Insead in France and the London Business School were the first European business schools to tap the fundraising potential of alumni.

Now smaller schools such as Cranfield are quickly catching up.

The Cranfield Management Association, which looks after the school’s 10,000 graduates, is widely regarded as one of the UK’s best alumni networks.

Cranfield alumni based abroad interview prospective students on behalf of the school, and alumni can use Cranfield as a source of recruits.

The Doughty donation is further sign of the growth in corporate responsibility as a subject in business schools.

Professor Osbaldeston says there is “an increasing appetite” from students for ethics education.

As dean of Ashridge business school, Professor Osbaldeston oversaw the establishment of the Ashridge centre for business in society, which, along with the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nottingham Business School, has shown the effectiveness of specialist centres in developing the evidence base for corporate responsibility.

The hope is that the Doughty centre will contribute to this evidence base, and promote the uptake of corporate responsibility outside of academia.


Useful links:

www.cranfield.ac.uk
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Bringing back the barley: Mild weather in Greenland pleases some but not others


Bringing back the barley

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Mild weather in Greenland pleases some but not others

THE Middle Ages were unusually warm in northern Europe, and it was during that period that the Vikings settled in Greenland. They cultivated land, growing mostly barley. The climate then cooled down, which made the place too chilly for arable farming. These days Greenland's 56,000 people rely largely on sheep farming in the south, hunting in the north and fishing in the west.

Or at least they did until the world started warming up again. Average temperatures in Greenland have risen by 1.5°C over the past 30 years. The barley is back. Kenneth Hoeth has been growing it, but only as an experiment. Several farmers in southern Greenland are now farming potatoes, turnips and iceberg lettuces commercially. Mr Hoeth is trying out other crops: he is pleased with his Chinese cabbage, which he says is particularly crispy.

The weather has helped sheep farming, too. Sheep are kept in barns all winter and have to be fed with hay or other fodder. Because grass grows more plentifully these days, sheep farmers need to import less fodder, so costs have fallen. The only downside, says Mr Hoeth, is bugs: caterpillars are proliferating. But, he says, “generally the warming is good for us.”

Not everybody in Greenland is so pleased, though. Hunters in the north, who catch narwhals, seals, walruses and polar bears, use dog sledges, which are tricky to use when the ice melts and the soil is mushy. The weather is less predictable, too. “Earlier,” says Alfred Jacobsen, Greenland's deputy minister for environment and nature, “local people could count on the weather. Now they don't know whether there will be a north wind, which brings stable weather, or a south one, which brings snowstorms.”

And for the fishermen in the west, who use big trawlers to catch shrimp, it could go either way. “Ice can be a problem for us,” says Jens Lyberth of the Fisheries and Exports branch of the Greenland Employers' Association. “Less ice is less problem.” And cod, which used to be plentiful until the 1960s, then disappeared, are coming back; but cod eat the shrimp the fishermen are after.

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‘Decarbonization Roadmap’ Published in Science Would Curtail CO2 Emissions and Achieve Energy Independence


CCNY CLEAN FUELS INSTITUTE SEES 98 PERCENT REDUCTION IN U.S. FOSSIL FUEL USE ACHIEVABLE THROUGH EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES
— ‘Decarbonization Roadmap’ Published in Science Would Curtail CO2 Emissions and Achieve Energy Independence —

NEW YORK, August 31, 2006 – In an article published to be published tomorrow in Science, Dr. Reuel Shinnar, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY) and Director of the Clean Fuels Institute, and Dr. Francesco Citro, a Research Associate with the Institute, present a roadmap for reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels by up to 98 percent.  The plan, “A Roadmap to U.S. Decarbonization,” would sharply curtail carbon dioxide and methane emissions and reduce global warming while simultaneously America’s dependence on imported oil and gas.

“While the United States has responded to the looming energy crisis by sponsoring a large research program for alternative energy, research success is not predictable,” Drs. Shinnar and Citro said.  “Any effective plan for solving our energy problems over a short timeframe needs to be based on proven, existing technologies.”

The bulk of the fossil fuel savings in the plan – 72 percent – would come from replacement with electricity generated from alternative sources.  If achieved, coal, oil and natural gas would no longer be used in electricity production or heating of residential and commercial properties.  Also, 65 percent of petroleum used for transportation and 70 percent of natural gas used in industry would no longer be needed.  Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 76 percent, as well.

To accomplish this, hybrid cars and light trucks equipped with plug-in batteries would replace 80 percent of gasoline usage.  This would be the cheapest way to reduce oil consumption, the authors noted.  In addition, railroads powered by electricity would handle 50 – 60 percent of the long distance hauling now done by heavy trucks.

Increased electricity generation would rely on a combination of sources including concentrated solar thermal (CST), nuclear energy, geothermal and hydroelectric plants, wind and solar cells.  CST technology, the main source, has generated 354 Mwe for about 20 years in California’s Mojave Desert.  It uses solar collectors to concentrate the sun’s rays on a heat transfer fluid that can sustain high temperatures and heat steam to drive power plant turbines.  In addition, it is competitively priced for intermediate load and load following production.

Expanded electricity usage would, however, require substantial enlargement of the nation’s electrical transmission and distribution system.  The national transmission grid would need to be doubled at a cost of approximately $250 - $300 billion with between $850 billion and $1 trillion needed for new local and regional distribution lines.

Another 26 percent of fossil fuel consumption could be replaced through use of synthetic gasses produced from biomass.  This would eliminate all petroleum and 30 percent of natural gas used in industry as well as 35 percent of petroleum used for transportation.  In addition, it would achieve an additional 21 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Drs. Shinnar and Citro would replace ethanol production with processes that use biomass as a carbon source combined with hydrogen to generate syngas (carbon oxides plus hydrogen) for the production of methanol or liquid fuels produced through the Fischer-Trospch process.  The syngas processes can produce three to four times as much hydrocarbons as fermentation to ethanol, they maintain. 

Most of the technologies cited in the article are competitive with crude oil priced at $70 per barrel.  They estimate that it would cost $170 - $200 billion a year over 30 years to replace 70 percent of U.S. fossil fuel consumption.  A $40 - $50 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions could pay for the whole investment, based on current emission levels, and also provide incentives for implementing renewable technologies.

About The City College of New York

For over 158 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 12,200 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the Grove School of Engineering, the Center for Worker Education and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.
Note created Sep 8, 2006
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Redesigning crops to harvest fuel


Redesigning crops to harvest fuel
By Andrew Pollack The New York Times
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2006


More miles to the bushel.

That is the new mission of crop scientists. As gasoline prices soar and concern mounts about global warming caused by fossil fuels, seed and biotechnology companies see a big opportunity in developing corn and other crops tailored for use in ethanol and other biofuels.

Syngenta, for instance, hopes in 2008 to begin selling a genetically engineered corn designed to help convert itself into ethanol. Each kernel of this self-processing corn contains an enzyme that must otherwise be added separately at the ethanol factory.

Last week, DuPont and Bunge said that their existing joint venture to improve soybeans for food would also start designing beans for biodiesel fuels and other industrial uses.

And Ceres, a plant genetics company in California, is at work on turning switch grass, plentiful in the midwestern United States, into an energy crop.

"You could turn Oklahoma into an OPEC member by converting all its farmland to switch grass," said Richard Hamilton, the Ceres chief executive.

Developing energy crops could mean new applications of genetic engineering, which for years has been aimed at making plants resistant to insects and herbicides, but would now include altering their fundamental structure. One goal is to reduce the amount of lignin, a substance that gives plants the stiffness to stand upright but interferes with turning a plant's cellulose into ethanol.

Such prospects are starting to alarm some environmentalists, who worry that altered plants will cross-pollinate in the wild, resulting in forests that practically droop for want of lignin. And some oppose the notion of altering corn to feed the U.S. addiction to automobiles.

"I don't think people want extra enzymes in the food supply put there to better fit the crops for energy production," said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But proponents of designer fuel crops argue that the risks are small compared with the threat of dependence on foreign oil. Some studies also suggest that ethanol use could help fight global warming because the crops that help produce ethanol absorb carbon dioxide.

So far, much of the attention on bioenergy has focused on improving the chemical processes for turning crops into ethanol. But experts say that if biofuels are to make a significant dent in U.S. petroleum consumption, the crops themselves must be improved to provide more energy.

And new agricultural sources beyond corn must be developed, they say. Even if the entire U.S. corn crop were converted to ethanol production, it would replace only about 15 percent of petroleum use, according to an Energy Department report.

"Half the improvement we make over the next 10 to 15 years will come from improving the feedstocks," said Gerald Tuskan, a biofuel expert in the department, referring to the crops fed into the ethanol factories.

Some of the work will not necessarily involve genetic engineering. Notably, Monsanto, the leader by far in crop biotechnology, says that its biofuel development will focus on conventional breeding, which it says is quicker.

Monsanto has tested its existing corn varieties to determine which ones are better for ethanol production. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the DuPont subsidiary that is Monsanto's rival in the corn-seed business, is doing the same.

The companies say that the designated varieties, which have higher fermentable starch content, can increase ethanol output 2 percent to 5 percent over other corn. And some factories are starting to request certain types of corn or to pay a premium for more desirable corn, said Pradip Das, head of crop analytics at Monsanto.

Many of the traits needed for energy corn - high yield as well as tolerance to disease, insects and drought - would also be desirable in corn used for human and animal food. That is not the case, though, with Syngenta's enzyme corn, which would be specifically for energy production.

Generally, the enzyme, known as amylase, is made in vats of bacteria. Ethanol manufacturers add the enzyme to corn to break down starch into sugar, which can be fermented into ethanol.

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Powering up: Improved devices may make better use of sunlight


Solar energy

Powering up

Sep 14th 2006
From The Economist print edition



Improved devices may make better use of sunlight


AP


MOST of the power generated by mankind originates from the sun. It was sunlight that nurtured the early life that became today's oil, gas and coal. It is the solar heating of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans that fuels wave power, wind farms and hydroelectric schemes. But using the sun's energy directly to generate power is rare. Solar cells account for less than 1% of the world's electricity production.

Recent technological improvements, however, may boost this figure. The root of the problem is that most commercial solar cells are made from silicon, and silicon is expensive. Cells can be made from other, cheaper materials, but these are not as efficient as those made from silicon.

The disparity is stark. Commercial silicon cells have efficiencies of 15% to 20%. In the laboratory, some have been made with an efficiency of 30%. The figure for non-traditional cells is far lower. A typical cell based on electrically conductive plastic has an efficiency of just 3% or 4%. What is needed is a way to boost the efficiency of cells made from cheap materials, and three new ways of doing so were unveiled this week in San Francisco, at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Solar cells work by the action of light on electrons. An electron held in a chemical bond in the cell absorbs a photon (a particle of light) and, thus energised, breaks free. Such electrons can move about and, if they all move in the same direction, create an electric current. But they will not all travel in the same direction without a little persuasion. With silicon, this is achieved using a secondary electrical field across the cell. Non-silicon cells usually have a built-in “electrochemical potential” that encourages the electrons to move away from areas where they are concentrated and towards places where they have more breathing space.


Cooking the chips

Kwanghee Lee of Pusan National University, in South Korea, and Alan Heeger of the University of California, Santa Barbara, work on solar cells made of electrically conductive plastics. (Indeed, Dr Heeger won a Nobel prize for discovering that some plastics can be made to conduct electricity.) They found that by adding titanium oxide to such a cell and then baking it in an oven, they could increase the efficiency with which it converted solar energy into electricity.

The trick is to put the titanium oxide in as a layer between the part of the cell where the electrons are liberated and the part where they are collected for dispatch into the wider world. This makes the electrically conductive plastic more sensitive to light at wavelengths where sunlight is more intense. Pop the resulting sandwich in the oven for a few minutes at 150°C and the plastic layer becomes crystalline. This improves the efficiency of the process, because the electrons find it easier to move through crystalline structures.

The technique used by Dr Lee and Dr Heeger boosts the efficiency of plastic cells to 5.6%. That is still poor compared with silicon, but it is a big improvement on what was previously possible. Dr Lee concedes that there is still a long way to go, but says that even an efficiency of 7% would bring plastic cells into competition with their silicon cousins, given how cheap they are to manufacture.

A second approach, taken by Michael Grätzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is to copy nature. Plants absorb solar energy during photosynthesis. They use it to split water into hydrogen ions, electrons and oxygen. The electrons released by this reaction are taken up by carrier molecules and then passed along a chain of such molecules before being used to power the chemical reactions that ultimately make sugar.




Dye-sensitised solar cells seek to mimic this assembly line. The dye acts like chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants green and that is responsible for absorbing sunlight and liberating electrons. The electrons are passed via a semiconductor to an electrode, through which they leave the cell. By using a dye called phthalocyanine, which absorbs not only visible light but also infra-red wavelengths, Dr Grätzel has been able to raise the efficiency of the process to 11%. That, he says, should be enough to make dye-sensitised cells competitive with silicon.

The third technique, being developed by Prashant Kamat of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and his colleagues, uses that fashionable scientific tool, the carbon nanotube. This is a cylinder composed solely of carbon atoms, and one of its properties is good electrical conductivity. In effect, nanotubes act as wires a few billionths of a metre in diameter.

Dr Kamat and his team covered the surface of an experimental cell made of cadmium sulphide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide with nanotubes, so that the tubes stuck up from the surface like hairs. The tubes then eased the passage of the liberated electrons from the cell to the electrode that collected them. Using this technique doubled the efficiency of Dr Kamat's cell from 5% to 10% at ultraviolet wavelengths and he reckons it would create similar increases in efficiency in both plastic and dye-based cells.

Such a boost would take novel solar cells closer to becoming a commercial reality. And that would be a very good thing. Production of solar cells has increased by 32% a year, on average, for the past decade and jumped by 45% in 2005. That sounds impressive, but it has been achieved largely by subsidies from the governments of Germany, Japan and California. Only in places unconnected to an electricity grid, such as much of rural Africa and rural Asia, are solar cells truly commercially viable. But if the price were to come down because efficient cells could be made from cheap materials, that could change quickly. The rest of the world would then be able to join the poor of Africa and the rich of California, and generate solar power for itself.

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Virgin pumps £214m into 'green' fuel initiatives


Virgin pumps £214m into 'green' fuel initiatives

Press Association
Monday September 11, 2006

The Guardian

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group has moved into "green fuels" with the launch of an investment fund that plans to pump up to $400m (£214m) into renewable energy initiatives over the next three years.

In its first deal, it is backing the California-based company Cilion, which makes bio-ethanol from corn. It plans to build seven plants by 2009 - the first three are expected to be in California - with a total of 1.7bn litres a year capacity.

Sir Richard said the fund would not limit itself to the US. The investment programme would expand to Britain, mainland Europe and other parts of the world.
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U.S. CEOs Overwhelmingly Concerned about Climate


U.S. CEOs Overwhelmingly Concerned about Climate

GreenBiz.com, 6 September 2006 - Nearly two in three Chief Executive Officers of American small and medium-sized businesses expressed concern about the prospects of global warming, according to the latest Vistage Confidence Index, a quarterly measure of economic, market and industry trends.

Sixty-four percent of the nearly 2,000 CEOs responding to the survey were very concerned or moderately concerned about global warming, while 36 percent were not concerned. The findings come amidst heightened efforts by California and other states to enact stricter regulations on greenhouse emissions, a move that has triggered concerns from the business community regarding impact to energy prices and jobs.

"The issue of global warming is clearly a concern among American executives," said Dan Barnett, Chief Operating Officer of Vistage International, the world's largest CEO membership organization. "The question is whether that concern will translate to the willingness to support legislation and regulatory requirements that impact their businesses."

Only seven percent of CEOs cited rising energy costs as the most important issue facing their business. Nearly 70 percent said that recent summer heat waves have had no impact on their business, although 25 percent reported a minor negative impact, presumably in the form of higher energy bills.

U.S. small and mid-sized businesses represent the most vital component of the nation's economy. This sector creates 75 percent of all new jobs and generates 50 percent of all national revenue. The opinions of these business leaders provide a clear snapshot of current economic, market, and industry trends and demonstrate their plans for growth over the next 12 months. These insights provide a leading indicator for employment, capital expenditure, sales and revenue trends.

The Q3 2006 Vistage Confidence Index is a compilation of responses from 1,939 CEOs of small- to mid-sized companies, surveyed August 16-24, with a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points. The Vistage Confidence Index is the only comprehensive report of their opinions and projections.

Note created Sep 11, 2006
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Hewlett-Packard chairman ousted over snooping scandal


Hewlett-Packard chairman ousted over snooping scandal
By Stephen Foley
Published: 13 September 2006

Hewlett-Packard's chairman agreed to resign yesterday as the computer manufacturer moved to end an embarrassing boardroom feud over leaks to the press.

Patricia Dunn had been under pressure to quit after revelations that her leak inquiry used private detectives who tapped into directors' private phone records, opening up HP to possible criminal charges.

Ms Dunn will relinquish the chairmanship in January, although she will stay on the board. Mark Hurd, the chief executive credited with a renaissance in HP's fortunes over the past 18 months, will add the chairmanship to his roles.

George Keyworth, HP's longest-serving director, who admitted being the source of news stories detailing secret boardroom strategy meetings, also quit yesterday. He will leave immediately.

The shake-up brings HP's board back from the brink. It had previously threatened to tear itself apart over the press leaks and the subsequent mole hunt. One of Mr Keyworth's allies, the veteran Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, had resigned in disgust at the conduct of the leak inquiry and had been publicly calling for Ms Dunn's resignation.

A private detective firm hired by HP's lawyers to help with the leak inquiry had impersonated at least two directors and nine journalists to get hold of their private phone-call lists - a practice known as "pretexting". The FBI and members of Congress are investigating HP over breaches of privacy, while California's attorney general has said pretexting is illegal in the state.

Although she remained defiant about the need for the leak inquiry, Ms Dunn said yesterday that she was sorry for the way it had been conducted. She said: "The investigation, which was conducted with third parties, included certain inappropriate techniques. These went beyond what we understood them to be, and I apologise that they were employed."

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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Campbell Soup sees healthier picture

Campbell Soup sees healthier picture

By Lauren Foster in New York

Published: September 12 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 12 2006 03:00

Campbell Soup, the world's largest soup maker, yesterday said its decision to back low-sodium soups would pay off next year when the products become the primary driver of growth.

The group in February said it would cut the amount of sodium in many of its soups and vegetable juices by 25 per cent after buying the exclusive rights to the supply of a type of sea salt naturally low in the substance.

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Too many Chinese chemical plants said built near rivers

AFP, 11 September 2006 - China witnesses a water pollution accident almost every other day because chemical plants and factories are often built near rivers, state media said Monday.

In the 300 days since mid-November last year, the nation counted a total of 130 incidents in which waterways were polluted by industry, Xinhua news agency said, citing the State Environmental Protection Administration.

"The main reason (is) not enough consideration was taken concerning the protection of the environment and the capacity of localities to handle pollution," Pan Yue, the administration's deputy chief, was quoted as saying. China was alerted to the environmental hazard posed by its chemicals industry when a plant in the northeastern province of Jilin exploded on November 13 spilling tonnes of toxic benzene into the Songhua River.

The spill contaminated the drinking water of millions as the polluted water flowed through neighboring Heilongjiang province to eastern Russia. Pan said the frequent incidents were related to the "irrational" distribution of industry, with over 20,000 chemical plants built on rivers. Up to 10,000 plants sat along the banks of China's longest river, the Yangtze, while 4,000 chemical plants were on the Yellow River, he said. Many plants were located near major drinking water sources or large population centers, he added.

As part of the government's ongoing efforts to raise environmental awareness, the administration would make information on pollution accidents public as soon as they happened, Pan said.

In related news, Xinhua said no injuries or poisonings had been reported so far after waste water from the holding pond of a chemical plant in central Hunan province last week began seeping into a local river.

Arsenic trioxide leaked into the Xinqiang river in Hunan's Yueyang county prompting the government to urge locals not to drink the water.

Arsenic trioxide could cause vomiting, stomach pain and even cancer and death, Xinhua said.

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EU to tackle oil habit with energy-savings plan


EU to tackle oil habit with energy-savings plan

EurActiv.com, 13 September 2006 - An ambitious energy-efficiency plan, to be unveiled by the Commission on 20 September, covers many areas and refers to a binding target to slash fuel consumption in cars, according to a draft seen by EurActiv.

Background

On 22 June 2005, the Commission tabled a 'Green Paper' on energy efficiency, outlining a series of ideas which it said could save Europe some 20% in energy consumption by 2020 and slash its energy bill by €60 billion every year.

EU member states have highlighted housing and transport as the sectors where the savings potential is greatest. But they insisted that the EU adopts realistic and wide-ranging measures such as soft law, product labelling, support measures, certificates and voluntary agreements.

Issues

The Commission will tell EU countries that they can cut their energy bill by €40 billion annually from 2012 if they follow the recommendations of an energy-efficiency action plan to be unveiled on 20 September. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 180 million tonnes annually and help the EU meet its Kyoto target on global warming.

A draft of the plan dated 19 June, of which EurActiv has obtained a copy, says "ambitious implementation of existing legislation and new actions" are needed to slash energy consumption in the EU.

However, action needs to reach all sectors of the economy - public sector, households and businesses - if the effects are going to be felt, it says. "Many complementary actions are needed" to produce "the lasting institutions, technical and behavioural changes and market transformations necessary to improve energy-efficiency," the draft reads.

The document spreads action over six years (2007-2012) and consists of four pillars:

  • Behavioural change with awareness campaigns targeted at consumers and the larger public;
  • legal instruments to ensure existing EU laws are used to their "full potential" with a possible revision of targets;
  • financial instruments including tax incentives and using sources of financing such as the EU's regional funds, and;
  • global aspects including trade and development policy, international agreements and treaties to disseminate and export cleaner technologies.
Two sectors are covered in a more particular way, although little detail was yet available:
  • Transport :
    • The Commission will impose European carmakers to reduce CO2 emissions if it becomes clear that the voluntary target of 140g CO2/km is not met by 2008. The agreement is "not on track", says the document, with emissions "far from the target of 120g CO2/km in 2012".
    • other initiatives include: a new framework directive on energy-efficiency in transport; incentives for hybrid and fuel cell cars; differentiated excise tax rates according to fuel efficiency; car sharing schemes; road pricing / congestion taxes; speed control limiters; progressive insurance premium; modal shift in urban areas; traffic optimisation using the Gallileo satellite positioning system; state aid for eco-design by manufacturers, and; the promotion of Flex Fuel cars that can run on a higher mix of biofuels.
    • Energy transformation sector :
      • A study is foreseen to explore the feasibility of minimum efficiency standards for new power stations.
      • Improving efficiency standards in coal-fired power plants is also a possibility being explored.
      Latest & next steps
      • 14 September : Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs to present 2006 winner of the European Shell Eco-marathon winning car
      • 20 September : Commission to officially unveil energy-efficiency action plan
      Links Note created Sep 15, 2006
      EU to tackle oil habit with energy-savings plan - www.wbcsd.org/...

Poverty, business and development - Practical thinking on poverty


Poverty, business and development - Practical thinking on poverty
EC Newsdesk
31 Aug 06


Time for fresh talk on poverty


A new group advising the UK’s Conservative party is taking a fresh look at how to tackle global poverty, writes the group’s leader, Peter Lilley MP
If words alone made a difference to global poverty then the developing world would be a land of plenty and Christian Aid would have been wound up long ago.

Sadly, the familiar cycles of war, corruption, poverty, and disease are still with us, and Christian Aid and its peers are still very much in business.

The Globalisation and Global Poverty Group, which David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative party, has asked me to lead, aims to take a fresh and positive look at how British aid policy can be made more effective. This includes the role business can play in that work.

We will certainly not be seeking to score partisan political points. Our aim will be to build on what was achieved at last year’s G8 meeting at Gleneagles and by the UK’s Africa Commission.

But whereas the Africa Commission addressed the governments of Africa and the G8, our group aims to take a more practical approach. We are going to keep our focus strictly on what the UK, acting alone, in partnership or by example, can achieve.

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We are spending our first six months in “receive” mode: hearing submissions from development experts at monthly evidence sessions and reviewing written contributions.

Contributors include non-governmental organisations, businesses, international agencies, UK and foreign government officials, the media and members of the public, regardless of political persuasion – via our website, www.globalpovertychallenge.com.

We particularly welcome submissions from businesses with operations or relationships in the developing world. No-one disagrees that economic development is fundamental to offering a brighter future for the poor.

What we need is to hear from business people themselves about what works on the ground and how far the role of business can go. This includes helping to build governance standards, reforming and contributing to the building of institutions, and eliminating corruption.

Broad church


The practical nature of our work is reflected in the make-up of the group. We are not a Conservative party organisation. Our members are emphatically not all Tories.

In addition to being advised by Bob Geldof, we have managed to attract people of the calibre of James Rubin, former US state department official under Bill Clinton; Will Day, former head of Care International and currently a special adviser to the UN Development Programme; and Mike Cook, former British high commissioner in Uganda.

Other group members have expertise in microfinance, trade, health and business in Africa and Asia.

To keep ourselves focused, we have put the key globalisation issues into six themes that are being explored by expert sub-groups: aid; trade; development; corruption; conflict; and, the role of the UK Department for International Development.

On 8 June, we held our first open session, hearing evidence from Geldof – who acts as adviser to the group – Duncan Green of Oxfam, Mike Moore, former head of the World Trade Organisation, and Kurt Hoffman of the Shell Foundation.

As you might expect, they did not agree on every issue.

But our task is not to reinforce any predetermined positions; rather it is to take into account as wide a range of expert views as possible, distilling them into a plan for action.

It is already clear that the issue is not just how much aid developing counties need, but also:

  • how much they can absorb;
  • how that aid can be made more effective;
  • whether conditions should in principle, or can in practice, be attached to aid;
  • whether trade liberalisation by developed countries needs to be made conditional on reciprocal liberalisation by developing countries;
  • what the most effective ways are to prevent or circumvent corruption; and
  • whether aid is best delivered via the government, by budgetary subventions or via NGOs.

We hope to answer these problems through the involvement of, most importantly, experts in the developing world.

Those on the ground are the people whose experience we must listen to if we wish to build effective policies.


Useful links:

www.globalpovertychallenge.com
getinvolved@globalpovertychallenge.com
Note created Sep 5, 2006
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s there REALLY a fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?
Mallen Baker
3 Sep 06


Creating the right conditions for sustainable business is tough


Mallen Baker considers the theories of CK Prahalad - and some of his critics
The seminal work by CK Prahalad, arguing the crucial role of multi-national corporations in alleviating poverty by treating the poor as consumers, has been one of the most influential tracts in recent years.

Now, a vigorous attack has been mounted on its underlying assumptions and conclusions.

Aneel Karnani, Associate Professor of Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, has produced a critical analysis that not only challenges some of the tenets of Prahalad's thinking - it savages them.

Prahalad had defined the 'bottom of the pyramid' (BOP) as being the 4 billion people in the world that live on less than $2 a day. Karnani says: "The BOP proposition is characterized by much hyperbole and very weak research methodology. The fortune and glory at the bottom of the pyramid are a mirage. The fallacy of the BOP proposition is exacerbated by its hubris."

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Karnani's attack focuses on three propositions in Prahalad's argument:

1. There is significant purchasing power at the bottom of the pyramid, meaning that companies can make good profits by selling to the poor.

2. Selling to the poor can bring prosperity to the poor

3. Large multi-national corporations can, and should, play a leading role in this process.

Karnani takes serious issue with assumptions around the potential size of this market. He says that although Prahalad argues that 4 billion people fall into this category, according to the World Bank the numbers are closer to 2.7 billion. Not only that, but Prahalad's estimation that this is a market worth $13 trillion does not take into account a number of key facts.

First of all, those bottom of the pyramid consumers exist on $2 a day or less - some of them quite a lot less. So the average figure is closer to $1.27 - and if you take into account the effect of exchange rates, the size of that market falls to around $0.3 trillion - which now compares rather less favourably than, for instance, the $11 trillion size of the US market.

Secondly, he believes that Prahalad has underestimated the high costs that would be borne by multinationals seeking to serve this market. The costs of distribution are high because these consumers are geographically dispersed, and there is poor infrastructure linking them. Not only that, but very little of that small income is actually available to goods producers. The poor spend 80 percent of their income on food, clothing and fuel, leaving very little available for extras.

Criteria arguments


He attacks Prahalad because many of the case studies used in support of the BOP proposition actually involve consumers who don't fall under the BOP criteria at all. So, for instance, he cites the case of Casas Bahia - whose customers on average earn twice the minimum wage (R$400) - well above the $2 a day threshold.

Likewise, he says, the focus on iodised salt produced by Hindustan Lever is misleading. The product may be technologically more advanced than the alternatives, but its higher price than some of the others has led to poor penetration of the product amongst the poor.

Prahalad says that Amul ice cream focuses on serving the poor, selling servings at 2 cents. Karnani says that Amul's website shows that its cheapest offering is at 5 rupees, equivalent to 57 cents.

One of the problems, he says, is Prahalad's insistence that the poor are savvy, value-conscious consumers whose views should be respected and served by companies. Lack of education and the ongoing effects of poverty may often lead people in this situation to make choices that are not in their own interest.

In addition, Prahalad's insistence that the quality of the product should not be sacrificed in making cost adjustments to meet the poor's need is a hindrance, not a help.

He says that, unless existing producers are all incompetent or grossly inefficient, the only way to significantly reduce prices is to reduce quality, or else to achieve significant improvements in technology.

Happy compromises


Karnani quotes the example of Nirma, a demonstrably inferior product to some of the alternative detergents on the market, such as Surf. It was hard on the skin, and could sometimes cause blisters.

And yet it retailed at a third of the price of its competitors, and achieved majority market share from consumers for whom the trade off between price and quality was one that they were happy to make. He concludes: "Insisting on not lowering the quality actually hurts the poor by depriving them of a product they could afford and would like to buy".

According to Karnani, rather than focusing on the poor as consumers, we need to view the poor as producers. The only way to help the poor is to raise the real income of the poor, either by lowering prices through lowering quality to provide goods that meet real needs, or through raising the income that the poor earn.

Robust defence


As you might expect, CK Prahalad has responded in robust form to the critique.

Prahalad disputes the charge that his arguments focus on turning the poor into consumers without consideration of their role as active economic agents. The totality of the argument on poverty alleviation includes creating transparent conditions for markets to flourish, a market based approach that includes single entrepreneurs, SMEs, NGOs, cooperatives and MNCs, creating profitable products and services for the BOP market, new business models and creativity and of production and income generation. And yet Karnani has extracted only the focus on treating the poor as consumers.

He also restates the view that around 4 billion live on $2 a day or less, citing a World Resources Institute / International Finance Corporation study due to be published in October that confirms the figure.

Karnani has also ignored, in his view, one of the central messages in the thesis - not that it is easy for companies to serve existing needs amongst the poor, but that there are ways to create the capacity for the poor to consume through measures to make those products available and affordable. This can come through devices such as single serve portions, monthly payments, pay per use, new distribution models and low prices through innovation and improvement in technology.

Ideology counts


But finally, Prahalad outlines that there is a fundamental difference in ideology that is worth mention. Prahalad believes in choice - rather than a rich elite deciding for the poor because they cannot decide for themselves. The process has to start for respect for Bottom of the Pyramid consumers as individuals, and achieving this will take new and creative approaches. Nobody said the process was easy.

Of course, Karnani would presumably respond that respecting choice also means respecting the right to choose lower quality.

This is not a purely academic debate. The thinking behind the 'Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid' is generating considerable activity. For instance, the Inter-American Development Bank has just adopted the Bottom of the Pyramid as their focus. A number of companies have begun initiatives in this area, some to a considerable scale. It there is no real market there, it will be a remarkable folly.

What Karnani has certainly achieved is to remind everyone that the challenges in meeting the needs of the poorest consumers are not straightforward. He is wrong to have suggested that Prahalad's argument had failed to recognise this - but it is fair to say that the essential impact of a study can often be reduced in the memory to the simplest components, and this would be a mistake. The approach to the Bottom of the Pyramid is about creating the conditions for a growing and thriving economy, not just about selling single sachets of soap.


This article is reproduced with kind permission from the Business Respect email newsletter. For information on how to subscribe and for a website archive of issues, go to:
www.mallenbaker.net/csr

Write to Mallen Baker at mallen@mallenbaker.net,
or write to the Editor at
editor@ethicalcorp.com.

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Mobile industry aims for greener phones: Nokia unveils new industry group that aims to make mobile phones more environmentally friendly


Mobile industry aims for greener phones
Nokia unveils new industry group that aims to make mobile phones more environmentally friendly


By Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

September 21, 2006

If just a small portion of the world's mobile phone users unplugged their charger when the battery is full, it could save enough electricity to power thousands of homes. So said Nokia on Thursday, as it unveiled a new industry group that aims to make mobile phones more environmentally friendly.

The group also includes Motorola, France Telecom, Vodafone Group, TeliaSonera, and others. It was created as part of a European Commission project aimed at uniting members of different industries to work on reducing the environmental impact of their products.

Members of the new group will try to educate people more about how they can reduce the environmental impact of using their cell phones. For example, manufacturers will start displaying a reminder on phones to unplug chargers once the battery is charged. If only 10 percent of phone users did that, they would save enough energy to power 60,000 European homes each year, Nokia estimates.

The companies will also reduce the hazardous materials they use beyond what current legislation requires. One example is Nokia’s decision to stop using any components in its phones that contain a certain type of environmentally harmful chemical flame retardant.

The operators will also increase the number of used phones that are returned for recycling. They’ll examine existing recycling schemes around the world and identify successful ones. They also plan to try out incentive initiatives to determine if they might improve recycling rates.

Environmental organizations including World Wildlife Fund, the Finnish Environmental Institute, the European Consumers’ Organization and the U.K.’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are also part of the new initiative.

The European Union recently instituted new regulations on the types of hazardous materials that can be included in electronic devices. Most manufacturers were able to alter their products to comply with the new laws, but Palm in July stopped shipping what was its latest smart phone, the Treo 650, to Europe because it didn’t meet the regulations.

Developing new market opportunities for low-income communities


Developing new market opportunities for low-income communities

Geneva, 28 August 2006 – Raising awareness about unmet needs among low-income communities, while building the capacities of local micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to address them, is the focus of an innovative project launched by the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) Mexico/CESPEDES in partnership with the Mexican Ministry for Economy and with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

This four-year program will improve market opportunities for local entrepreneurs, creating new business networks involving MSMEs, and lifting people out of the informal economy.

Fifty-five million people live on less than three dollars a day in Mexico. Housing and construction, food processing and distribution, energy, water, recycling and waste disposal are some of the sectors where innovative, lower cost and better quality goods and services are needed.

By leveraging the advantages of smaller firms – their proximity to clients, their outreach and knowledge of local needs and culture – the project will bring MSMEs into business ventures with larger companies to supply these low-income communities with improved products and services.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has been invited to be part of the Advisory Council of the project and will be represented by Marcel Engel, Director of the Regional Network.

Six pilot projects have already been identified, representing an investment of about US$ 1.2 million by leading Mexican companies (members of the Mexican BCSD). The project portfolio is to be expanded during implementation.

Implementation will take place over a period of 46 months, including four months for the production of the final documents. The main phases of the project are:

1. Development of action plans for new products and services

• Awareness creation and promotion of the program in order to identify new business opportunities and partnerships for the design of new projects.

2. Selection and implementation of projects

• Selection of the best project proposals by a committee (see eligibility criteria below).

3. Institutional capacity building and dissemination of results

• Activities to disseminate information on the processes, results and lessons learned.

The eligibility criteria for the projects are the following:

  • Potential demand from the low-income community for the new product or service;
  • A business model that provides a real opportunity for innovation and growth for the companies involved;
  • Existence of a supply chain that promotes the growth of MSMEs;
  • Existence of clear indicators for follow-up, monitoring and evaluation.
The lessons learned will provide input to the wider “Building Opportunity for the Majority” initiative of the IDB.

Note created Aug 30, 2006
Developing new market opportunities for low-income communities - www.wbcsd.org/...

Blowing hot and cold: Geologists are getting more juice out of the ground


Geothermal energy

Blowing hot and cold

Sep 14th 2006 | REYKJAVIK
From The Economist print edition



Geologists are getting more juice out of the ground

GOLDILOCKS, the fussy, blonde, larcenous heroine of an English children's story, liked her porridge neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right. Most engineers looking for underground sources of steam to generate geothermal power have similar tastes. If the steam is much colder than 150°C, it will start to condense into water before it can be used to turn a turbine. On the other hand, steam hotter than 400°C, although richer in energy, is harder to find and to handle. Two new projects, however, aim to push back both these limits.

Geothermal power stations tap aquifers heated by contact with hot rocks in volcanic regions—or, in hot but dry spots, they pump water past such rocks to heat it up. The temperature of the steam produced varies, depending on how hot the source is and how much heat it loses on its way to the surface.

Not all geothermal activity is hot enough to bring water to the boil. The Chena hot springs, in Alaska, for example, are just right for bathers, at a porridge-like 43°C, but not much use for traditional geothermal power generation. Even within the spa's wells, the water is only 74°C. Nonetheless, its owners, in conjunction with United Technologies, an engineering conglomerate, have worked out how to generate power from the tepid flow—the coldest ever used in a geothermal plant.

The power station at Chena uses the spring water to heat up R134a, a fluid hitherto employed mainly as a refrigerant. Since R134a has a relatively low boiling point, the water is hot enough to convert it into a gas. This gas is used to drive the turbine just as steam would be. Icy water from a nearby river then cools the gas back to liquid form, to start the cycle again.

The idea of using a liquid with a lower boiling point than water to drive a turbine is nothing new—it has simply not proved worthwhile in the past. It is the thermal energy of the gas, after all, that the turbine converts into electricity, so the colder the gas, the lower the yield. Such low yields, in turn, do not normally justify the cost of construction.

The designers of the plant at Chena, however, managed to slash their capital outlay by substituting mass-produced parts from air-conditioners for the bespoke components of most geothermal plants. They reckon their design could be mimicked anywhere there is a difference in temperature of at least 50°C between heating and cooling water. That would apply not only to a huge number of geothermal sites, but also to many oil wells, which often bring up warm water from great depths along with their more valuable output.

In Iceland, meanwhile, a consortium of utilities is teaming up to do just the opposite: harness steam that is much hotter than the norm. The wells of most geothermal plants are about 2km (a mile-and-a-bit) deep. But the Icelandic outfit hopes to drill to depths of 4km or more, to get closer to the magma that rises towards the surface along local faultlines. In such areas, geologists predict, the steam might be as hot as 600°C.

Tapping this steam would be expensive, since it would require not only extra building materials, but also more durable ones, to cope with the higher pressures and temperatures. But Olafur Flovenz, of Iceland Geosurvey, believes that although the costs might double or triple, the amount of electricity generated could rise by as much as ten times. As it is, power-hungry industries are flocking to Iceland to take advantage of the cheap electricity generated by geothermal plants. If the “Iceland Deep Drilling Project” succeeds, it would bring the costs down even further. Better yet, it could be replicated in any country with a volcano.

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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China to pioneer 'first sustainable city'

By Geoff Dyer in Chongming

Published: September 15 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 15 2006 03:00

Chongming, an island at the mouth of the Yangtze river, has felt the impact of environmental degradation more than many places, as its population has doubled in 50 years and deforestation has silted up the river.

Now Chongming is to become a model for environmental good practice. The Shanghai government has just begun construction of an "eco-city" at a place called Dongtan, which is to be a showcase for sustainable urban life in a country where 20m people are moving to cities every year.

Arup, the engineering and design consultancy behind the masterplan, describes Dongtan as the "world's first sustainable city". "By integrating all these different technologies, we can create a new type of city living," says Dong Shanfeng, who runs the project at Arup.

There is not much to see yet, but by the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai the developers hope 25,000 people will be living there, rising to 80,000 by 2020. Eventually the eco-city could have a population of 500,000.

Such bold initiatives are particularly important in China, which has 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world and is increasingly an exporter of environmental problems. This summer for instance, the government admitted that emissions of sulphur dioxide, which cause acid rain, had risen sharply over the last five years and that China was now thebiggest source of such pollution.

Mr Dong says the Dongtan buildings will use one-third of the energy consumed by typical houses and energy will be renewable - one of the mock-up drawings shows large windmills in thedistance.

Minimising the new city's environmental impact is vital, he says, not least because it is next door to a reserve for migrating birds.

Kang Hongli of Shanghai Green Oasis, a non-governmental organisation that monitors the island's bird population, says: "The precise impact is not clear, but such expansion is bound to put huge pressure on the environment." While there is a plan to protect the wetlands near Dongtan, she says, wetlands on the north coast of the island are already suffering.

The developers plan to generate 50,000 jobs around Dongtan in tourism and research - they are looking at a number of "innovation-oriented industries", says Mr Dong. Yet if there are not enough jobs for residents, the eco-city could generate long car commutes to other parts of the Shanghai region.

That would make it part of a bigger problem. Although Shanghai is building new underground lines, critics say the city has created too many distant suburbs poorly served by public transport, one cause of the explosion in car ownership.

The paradox is that "if there is not an economic base and sufficient mass transit, Dongtan risks becoming a new-age Potemkin village", says Christopher Choa, an architect at the Shanghai office of EDAW, an architecture and environmental consulting firm. "The real danger is that it becomes a whitewash for other activities that are not sustainable."

Note created Sep 15, 2006
FT.com / World / Asia-Pacific - China to pioneer 'first sustainable city' - www.ft.com/...

The global car industry - Politics may triumph in the auto environmental debate

The global car industry - Politics may triumph in the auto environmental
debate

EC Newsdesk
18 Sep 06

With auto manufacturing going global, the environmental impacts of
world-wide growth in production are unlikely to deter governments
from national strategies, suggests Toby Proctor
Detroit is heading south as the car industry shifts eastwards, with
all sorts of labour and sourcing implications.

Globalisation is causing considerable pain to the automotive sector?s
historic heartlands, and in the US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
has become a feature of a defensive government-industry response.

In the wake of Ford cutting its North American workforce by a third,
the responsibilities of corporations, unions, governments and courts
in sharing out the pain when automotive multi-nationals need to
shrink, and/or move jobs across borders to survive are worth
pondering.

In the six year old academic paper ?A Theory of the Firm: Governance,
Residual Claims and Organization Forms?, theorist Michael C. Jensen
contends that corporate internal control systems have failed to deal
effectively with modern requirements for downsizing and market exit.

The lessons offered by the automotive ?rust belt? of Detroit suggest
that the external legal and political systems have done little
better.

US automotive employment had shrunk by 268,000 jobs since 2000 even
before Ford announced in mid-September it would cut its workforce by
a third, offering early retirement incentives to over 75,000 United
Auto Workers (UAW) members.

Like the employers it negotiates with, the UAW would like President
Bush to make time to hear the Big Three plead for federal solutions
to Michigan?s predicament, whether or not they would agree on its
primary causes or solutions; but he has kept them waiting for months.

When that meeting takes place in November, it will likely reveal
divided opinions about the role of government in mitigating ?market
forces?.

Other governments happy to help

The UAW is right to discern that Japanese fiscal and other policies
have been kinder to Toyota and its peers than US administrations have
been to their own national champions.

Likewise, the decline of employment in Western Germany?s key
automotive sector has long been delayed by a company-government-union
?social contract?. This, for example, has guaranteed the Land
(Government) of Lower Saxony a hitherto golden share in VW, and
unionists like UAW president Ron Gettelfinger a seat on the
supervisory board of companies like DaimlerChrysler.

Across the EU, the restraining influence of EU-model Works Councils,
whose responsibilities, theoretically, transcend national borders,
has served as a brake on solutions to uncompetitive wage costs for
the likes of VW and GM. But it hasn?t stopped a steady drift of
capacity investment eastward to Central Europe.

If we take the ex- and soon-to-be-ex-automotive workers in the US,
Germany or the UK as the most immediate victims of corporate
restructuring, we should also acknowledge that they have earned well
above-average wages compared to workers in other sectors in their own
countries, not to mention those for whom jobs have recently been
multiplying in Asia.

Even the latest US job losses pale beside the 31 million Chinese
estimated to have lost their jobs in between 1998 and 2003, of which
nearly 25% were in the Northeast, China?s former rustbelt and now one
of its fast-growing regional economies. The World Bank estimates that
Chinese unemployment is more than twice the official rate of just
over 6%.

What strategy for Unions?

How should unions accommodate cross-border competition for jobs?
Metalworkers around the world are often in competition with vastly
cheaper labour in China where independent trade unions are illegal,
notes the International Metalworkers? Federation.

Wide wage differentials between and within countries continue to
shift jobs southwards and eastwards. Within Europe, GM?s European
Works Council recently vowed to show solidarity across EU Member
States to prevent GM cherry-picking sites for its next Astra model.

But the EU?s state aid rules for the auto sector (facing revision)
have failed to enforce a level playing field for job-hungry national
governments with wide wage differentials.

How much should governments be accountable for resisting global
shifts in investment in this sector?

Ford executive vice president Mark Fields observed last month: ?In
the Western world, the lack of a strong manufacturing policy,
inconsistent industry-government cooperation and the rising cost of
regulations and social issues have resulted in a steady exodus of
auto jobs from the long time players, including Ford.

In Asia, the approach is vastly different. Governments and consumers
see the auto industry as strategically important, vital to national
interests and deserving of full support at every level of their
national economies.?

In the US, it?s clear to corporations and unions alike that the
country?s health and social welfare structures put far more pressure
on corporate funds than in Europe, where the heavy burden of health
care is shared more widely among citizens at large.

Similar strictures to those of Ford against the US administration
have been levelled against the UK government by French unionists
appalled by its mute resignation when Peugeot decided this year to
close its UK plant.

With governments? job protection policies largely restricted to
urging more competitiveness on their domestic employers, it has
fallen to courts to mediate, or more accurately, mitigate global
industrial conflict when it impacts on a country?s automotive labour
force.

Chapter 11: surgical tool, or crutch?

Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code may be as the UAW puts it, ?a
sorry substitute for a coherent industrial policy?, but it?s the only
tool now available to achieve an equitable settlement of contending
stakeholders? interests when companies need to restructure.

In the US, Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code can be deployed, as a
threat, or in the last resort deployed, by the managements of failing
corporations to fend off aggressive unions, shareholders, or both.

So far, Chapter 11 processes have shown little potential to do more
than slow down cost reduction processes, since few failed companies
have yet emerged from the courts? protection.

In the case of Delphi, the US automotive supplier formerly part of GM
and still largely dependent on it, the company has stalled on its
petition to void its labour contracts in the face of threatened
industrial action, which, it?s feared, could put both Delphi and its
principal customer GM out of business for good.

But neither private equity investors in Delphi have been happy at the
minimal representation of shareholder interests in the bankruptcy
administration, and Delphi?s unions have yet to be given a hearing.

Outcome are afoot, eventually

Chapter 11 has not stopped companies nominally subject to court
judgments awarding their senior executives bonuses while reducing
their productive workers? wages and numbers, though Dana Corp. was
recently prevented from promising its CEO a multi-million dollar
bonus just for helping the firm exit Chapter 11.

The Chapter 11 rules have enabled Delphi?s profitable European
operations to escape bankruptcy, providing a situation which the
United Auto Workers finds distinctly anomalous, in which a
multi-national is permitted to disregard its (crucial) overseas
investments if its home market operations need restructuring
initiatives to which its domestic stakeholders will not consent.

Verdicts on the effectiveness of Delphi?s and other U.S. automotive
suppliers? Chapter 11 proceedings must await their eventual emergence
from bankruptcy, and the effects on employees, customers and
investors of the stays of execution that Chapter 11 has afforded.

What is almost certain is that the private equity investors in
automotive suppliers, who yearn for the short-term returns from
asset-stripping that Chapter 11 will have frustrated, would have
found new owners for parts of such problematic entities as Delphi.

Whether unfettered private equity funding would actually provide more
value, and in the medium term, more employment than efforts to
protect the weak remains open to question.

Special status

Behind these conundrums lies the special, flagship status of the car
industry as an emblem of competing states? economies. Car companies,
however damaged by internal failures or external challenges, are
seldom allowed to die, even if large proportions of their workforces
are displaced.

Clinically dead carmakers are routinely given life support by
government investment incentives, which encourage competitors to
acquire their assets rather than to destroy them. (Excepting the US
Big Three, who instead have historically enjoyed oligopoly status
supported by cheap gasoline.)

Ultimately, on a global scale, the preference of carmakers to produce
in proximity to their markets means that the pain of restructuring in
North America and Western Europe will be less significant in the
long-term history of the auto industry than the net growth achieved
by China?s automotive industrialisation, and that of India, which
plans for 10% of its GDP to be automotive-based in ten years? time.

Which raises a further, and perhaps even more intractable issue for
the auto industry?s stakeholders: From the ethical standpoint which
informs so much of industrial rhetoric about social responsibility
and sustainability, the environmental implications of global growth
in automotive production may be impossible to square with the rights
of workers in any of its markets.

Toby Procter is an automotive analyst with Trend Tracker, with
provides automotive research and training

www.trendtracker.co.uk
tprocter@trendtracker.co.uk
Note created Sep 19, 2006
Ethical Corporation: By Invitation - The global car industry - Politics may
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Facilitation payments - Stop paying and they stop asking


Facilitation payments - Stop paying and they stop asking
Tobias Webb, Editor
31 Aug 06


Irresistable?


Alexandra Wrage, president of Trace, says anti-bribery efforts should start small
Bribes can come in all sizes. The media likes to highlight the more flagrant examples, but the smaller, everyday forms often go undetected.

The most pervasive kind of small bribes are facilitation payments – or money paid to local officials to accelerate bureaucratic procedures.

In the past, governments have overlooked facilitation payments. Western lawmakers assumed that such payments were simply unavoidable, a necessary part of doing business abroad.

Facilitation payments were exempted from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – the world’s first extra-territorial anti-bribery law, passed in the US in 1977.

The act forms the basis of many anti-bribery laws around the world. It made “small, routine, non-discretionary payments to government officials” – facilitation payments – permissible by US companies.

A major turning point in the fight against facilitation payments came in 2001, with the UK’s Anti-Terrorism Act. It is now a criminal offence for UK companies, and UK employees of multinationals, to make such payments.

The new law seems to have affected big companies. In 2002, BP became the first multinational to ban facilitation payments.

Now, non-UK companies with UK employees are being forced to rethink their policies.

Weak enforcement


But there are yet to be any prosecutions under the act, although it is thought that there are about 30 cases currently being investigated.

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Transparency International, the global corruption watchdog, recently named and shamed the UK, along with 18 other OECD countries, for its failure to enforce anti-bribery laws.

It is a problem that Alexandra Wrage is well placed to address. As president of Trace (Transparent Agents and Contracting Entities), she works with companies seeking to root out bribery.

Wrage admits that the number of prosecutions have been lower than expected. But she has some reservations about Transparency International’s findings.

First, she says, “tricky legalities” have made prosecutions difficult. Some countries have taken a long time to establish mechanisms for dealing with crimes committed abroad.

This is not unusual: it was at least a decade before US courts could enforce the FCPA, she says.

Second, she suspects that much anti-bribery enforcement is politically motivated. In France, Italy and South Korea – all praised in the TI report – high-profile cases were brought against foreign, mainly US, interests.

Start small


Wrage believes that anti-bribery drives should start small, focusing on facilitation payments – or “expediting bribes” as she calls them.

There are many reasons why facilitation payments are damaging, she says. The most obvious is that they create double standards, as payments are permitted in some countries but not in others.

Wrage observes that companies making facilitation payments distort the functioning of local bureaucracies.

Unlike paying tips, she says, money from facilitation payments is funnelled through a series of government officials, creating a “pyramid scheme” of bribery.

Wrage says that such payments send conflicting signals to employees, who are told they will be imprisoned for bribery but not for expediting payments.

They can also alienate local communities, she says, as companies buy their way past certain local officials.

And they create accounting problems, since employees have trouble keeping accurate records and do not want to document what really happens.

Facilitation payments can also undermine international security. Wrage says: “If you pay government officials to manage differently, you shouldn’t be surprised if criminals and terrorists are doing the same.”

Paying bribes perpetuates the system, as “entrepreneurial bribe takers” raise prices and demand more.

The process is self-defeating. Wrage says that, in the end, facilitation payments do not achieve their goals. Instead they increase delays, and become costs and risks in themselves.

Encouraging signs


The signs are that attitudes are changing. In the past 30 years the size of small bribes has decreased.

In the 1980s, $5,000 paid to government officials would have been classed as small. Now the amounts under consideration are as little as $50.

Many companies now have compliance programmes in place. According to Wrage, between a third and a half of Trace member companies have abolished facilitation payments in the past two years.

The answer to the problem of small bribes lies in giving local employees the training and skills to tackle the problem of demanding officials, she says. They can, for instance, blame their refusal to pay on headquarters.

Companies that introduce tougher policies on bribes will face “30-60 days of pain”, says Wrage. But then demands from intermediaries and officials stop.

She explains that the average bribe-taker is risk averse, and “won’t stand there with their hand out if you won’t pay”.

From her experience, companies can quickly clean up their act. “You shine the least bit of light” and malpractice can stop, she says.

Trace helps its members face the problem, going into government departments and making subtle or direct suggestions on their behalf.

Bribes do not have to be an everyday part of business. Wrage says: “I disagree that it’s impossible to do business without making facilitation payments.”

She admits that in some countries it can be very hard. But non-payment has advantages. “From a business and a legal perspective, ethics aside, you save money, you save time, you save risk.”

Ultimately, small bribes will stop when the cost of non-compliance outweighs that of compliance.

This moment could be a liberating one for companies, as they shake off the cost of facilitation payments and the hypocrisy that comes with them.


Additional reporting by John Russell, deputy editor



Useful links:

www.traceinternational.org


Transparent Agents and Contracting Entities


Trace is a membership organisation providing anti-bribery support to companies and their intermediaries across the world.

The organisation undertakes due diligence reviews and compliance training for intermediaries – sales agents and representatives, consultants, distributors, suppliers and so on.

Members include Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Northrop Grumman, United Parcel Service, General Electric, Honeywell, Marathon Oil, Dow Chemical, American Express and FedEx.


Main offenders


The five states perceived as the most corrupt are:
  • Chad
  • Bangladesh
  • Turkmenistan
  • Burma
  • Haiti

Source: Transparency International


Bribery: the key facts


  • Since 1998, more than 30 new anti-bribery laws have come into being, as a result of the OECD’s Convention to Combat Bribery.
  • Typically, companies can be prosecuted if it is proved that management “knew or should have known” about illegal payments being made by their intermediaries.
  • Bribery is now a matter of risk management. Companies are vulnerable if they do not keep a close eye on employees and intermediaries.
  • Transparency International says that just 12 OECD countries, out of 31 surveyed, have taken significant enforcement action to tackle bribery and corruption.
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Sustainable public procurement - Sustainability begins at home


Sustainable public procurement - Sustainability begins at home
Poulomi Mrinal Saha, Assistant Editor
30 Aug 06


Destined for cabinet


The UK government is aiming to be a sustainability leader in public procurement
When Greenpeace activists invaded the Cabinet Office in London in 2002 claiming the doors being fitted were made from illegal timber, it was an embarrassing day for the Labour government.

The protesters called the new home of deputy prime minister John Prescott the scene of “environmental crimes”.

Since then, the government has been trying hard to undo the damage.

In May last year, the government set up a Sustainable Procurement Task Force, headed by Sir Neville Simms, chairman of International Power.

The task force was made up of representatives of the private sector, some of whom are suppliers to the government; non-governmental organisations; trade unions; professional bodies; major public sector procurers and the Sustainable Development Commission.

The job assigned the task force was to find ways the government could marry sustainability with its purchasing decisions to emerge as the European Union’s leader on sustainable public procurement by 2009.

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In June this year, the task force handed a national action plan to the government making six core recommendations: lead by example, set clear priorities, raise the bar, build capacity, remove barriers and capture opportunities.

The authors of the action plan say sustainable public procurement is not a high enough priority for the government or any local agency.

No-one at the top appears to take responsibility for or encourage the adoption of sustainable practices.

“All this results in confusion for suppliers, as policy statements are not translated into procurement decisions,” the report says.

Stuart Williams, of the environmental consultancy Forum for the Future, says: “The task force has shown that government bodies are in effect wasting taxpayers’ money on mediocre buildings, ill-conceived services and bad food. They’re not doing this because they’re stupid, but because ruthless financial short-termism forces them to go for the cheapest option.”

The task force suggests that the government make clear certain performance standards as mandatory for suppliers and apply sanctions on those that do not comply.

The report also provides government agencies with a “flexible framework” within which they could self-assess their performance on sustainability matters, and recommended levels to be reached.

Short-term budgeting


One of the main barriers to sustainable public procurement identified was the way budgets are run.

Only upfront costs are taken into account, as opposed to “whole life costing”, and knowledge of how to take into account intangible costs and benefits is low.

Ken James, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, told Ethical Corporation that sustainable procurement must be recognised as an investment that may not accrue immediately but may do so over, say ten years.

Benefits include cost savings, environmental and social advantages, and knock-on effects of support for innovative and new environment-friendly technologies.

Some leading suppliers have complained that the UK government’s message on sustainability is incoherent, inconsistent and confusing.

Business backing


Recently, 14 executives from some of the UK’s biggest companies, including Vodafone, Shell and Tesco, wrote an open letter to prime minister Tony Blair, calling for tougher standards on sustainable public procurement.

They want the government to use its massive £150 billion purchasing power, stressing that that only investment on the scale the government can afford can allow for niche environment-friendly technologies and products to become mainstreamed by bringing down costs.

Jonathan Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, says the government should encourage changes in the consumption habits of businesses and consumers in general. He believes there is true “value for money” in doing so.

Porritt says all the major political parties in the UK are falling over each other to flaunt their environmental credentials, and the issue is here to stay.

“Sustainable public procurement is not subject to the vagaries of party politics,” he says.

But it can surely be a feather in the cap of a government keen to win favour with its electorate.

Suppliers to the 2012 Olympics will have to abide by environmental and social criteria, and the government has said it will render all its offices in the UK carbon-neutral by 2012 and reduce carbon emissions from all buildings by 30% by 2020.

These are all steps in the right direction.


Useful links:

www.sustainable-development.gov.uk
www.sd-commission.org.uk/
www.cips.org


2005 green public procurement study


In a 2005 public procurement study by the European Commission, seven countries were highlighted as using environmental criteria in their public procurement decisions: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

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Britain's blackcurrant farmers win freedom from the Ribena squeeze


Britain's blackcurrant farmers win freedom from the Ribena squeeze

By Fiona Harvey

Published: September 6 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 6 2006 03:00

John Hinchliffe is looking forward to December. "It's my favourite time of year, the winter. Everything has been harvested, everything is in," he explains. "Whatever nature had in store for you, it's over and the worst has been done. Until next year, anyway."

Mr Hinchliffe farms 300 acres near Canterbury, in Kent, the county once known as the "garden of England" for its orchards and fields of hops and fruit. Most of those are now gone, but Mr Hinchliffe still devotes about one-third of his farm to apples and pears, and much of the rest to fields of strawberries and blackcurrants.

He is one of fewer than 45 growers of the latter in the UK and, like nearly all of the others, he produces his crop to be made into Ribena, the popular branded juice drink that has been made in Britain since 1937. About 95 per cent of the UK blackcurrant crop is used in the drink, now owned by GlaxoSmith-Kline. Ribena accounts for sales of £155m ($293m) a year in the UK, with the rest of the world accounting for a fraction more.

Mr Hinchliffe likes Ribena, mainly for the way he is treated as a supplier. The average price on the world market for blackcurrants is £130-£150 a tonne. But as a Ribena grower, he receives £610 a tonne for most of his crop.

This would not have been the case several years ago, when Ribena followed the pattern set by most retailers and other commercial buyers of farm products in the UK. Those buyers have used their might over the years to drive down "farmgate" prices. The result has been much cheaper food in the supermarkets - food now makes up a much smaller proportion of the average British household's expenditure than it once did - and higher profits for the big retailers, but farmers have complained that they have been squeezed.

Deloitte, the consultancy, recently calculated that most farming in the UK was unprofitable without subsidy, even in fertile lowland areas.

A series of unrelated disasters in British farming has added to the sense of crisis, including the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which led to an export ban on British beef, and the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2000 that led to pyres of burning animals all over the countryside. Farmers have also had to cope this year with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, under which they will be paid for the amount of land they farm rather than what they produce. This means farmers are much less protected from market forces than they were in the past.

Many farmers are now trying to diversify into other areas, such as hospitality or niche markets for organic food, but thousands of others have left the industry.

That was what prompted GSK to act. The company realised that its reliance on British blackcurrant growers was such that it would be badly affected if even a small number of growers abandoned or reduced their crop. Michael Dunsire, sourcing director at GSK, says: "We think it's important to have good relationships with our growers, some of whom have been growing blackcurrants for Ribena for three -generations."

When existing growers are lost, replacing them with new ones is difficult because each blackcurrant bush takes three years to grow before fruit can be harvested from it. The specialised equipment required for the picking can cost about £70,000 per unit.

Like other food companies, GSK has also grown more concerned about the sourcing and provenance of its raw ingredients. This follows consumer concerns over the food they eat, including over contamination with genetically modified material or agricultural chemicals, and a desire to know more about how the foods they eat are made, particularly products associated with children, such as Ribena.

Mr Dunsire explains: "Consumers want to know where their food is coming from. They are asking more questions about their food." Buying fruit on the world market would allow GSK next to no control over its growing conditions; by contrast, the contents of each bottle produced today can be traced to one of six farms.

Blackcurrant farmers have enjoyed a good deal because of their close relationship with the biggest buyer of the crop in the UK. But there are small signs that other food companies are taking an increasing interest in their suppliers, too.

Supermarkets, led by the premium end retailers Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, have begun to advertise to customers the source of some of their ingredients. Some are also paying a premium: Waitrose, for instance, pays dairy farmers a penny a pint more for milk than the usual rate.

Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, says: "We're saying to farmers that it really is worthwhile going on with [producing] milk. Otherwise, you could see a situation in which fresh liquid milk was having to be imported to this country, which would be -disgraceful."

These are small steps in the context of the farming industry at large. But for farmers such as Mr Hinchliffe, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers are the best way to take some of the worst uncertainties out of farming.

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Those in peril by the sea: Two of the big risks from climate change are a shutdown of the Gulf Stream and a rise in sea levels


Those in peril by the sea

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Two of the big risks from climate change are a shutdown of the Gulf Stream and a rise in sea levels

A SVERDRUP, the unit in which ocean currents are measured, is one million cubic metres of water per second. The Gulf Stream, the northern part of a circulation system known as the North Atlantic Gyre, reaches 150 Sverdrups at its peak. On average, it flows at around 100 Sverdrups. North of Britain, where the surrounding water temperature is around zero, the Gulf Stream is around 8°C. With its huge volumes and its sharp temperature difference to surrounding waters, it carries so much tropical heat from the mid-Atlantic to western Europe that Norway's coastline is, in winter, 20°C warmer than similar latitudes in Canada.

The prospects for the Gulf Stream are therefore of considerable interest not just to climatologists but also to farmers, businessmen, politicians and any western Europeans who prefer mild winters to the prospect of living somewhere like Newfoundland. So a recent paper suggesting that it was slowing down aroused plenty of interest.

The Gulf Stream is driven both by the rotation of the Earth and by a deep-water current called the Thermohaline Circulation. The THC pulls warm salty water from the tropics northwards. It gradually loses heat as it does so and, as it approaches the Arctic, begins to sink because it is saltier, and therefore heavier, than the surrounding water. As it sinks, it pulls in more warm water from the tropics. The deeper, colder water returns to the tropics through the Deep Southerly Return Flow, which passes by Florida, and the Subtropical Recirculation, which curls round the west coast of Africa.

There are good reasons to be nervous about the Gulf Stream's future, because it has not been reliable in the past. Since the most recent ice age 20,000 years ago, it has packed up several times—most recently, it seems, around 8,200 years ago, when a sudden flood of fresh water from a North American lake tipped into the North Atlantic. The fresh water seems to have diluted the Gulf Stream's saltiness and thus weakened its flow.

That, fear climate-change watchers, is what could happen as the Arctic ice melts. But the models did not predict that it would start happening yet, which is why the climatological world sat up when a paper was published last year claiming that the flow appeared to be slowing.

The paper, by Harry Bryden and some colleagues at Britain's National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, was based on five sets of measurements of the THC taken over half a century. The first three showed no discernible change in its speed; but results in 1998 and again in 2004 suggested a noticeable slowing, which Dr Bryden and his colleagues estimate at 30% of the current's volume.

Some scientists, such as MIT's Professor Carl Wunsch, caution against drawing conclusions from so few data points. “The oceans are like the atmosphere. The system is exceedingly noisy. You get weather in the oceans like you get weather in the atmosphere. This paper is based on five crossings of the Atlantic over 47 years. It's as though you went out on five different occasions in five different places in North America over half a century and measured the wind speed. You say there's a trend. There's a trend in your figures, but you have no evidence of a secular trend. Much of the community would say you have five data points.”

Professor Wunsch is not a climate-change sceptic. He believes that there will be “serious future climate change: it's almost guaranteed,” and he thinks there should be attempts to mitigate it. But he is fed up with too much being read into thin research.

Although the data about what is happening now may not be solid enough to bear too much interpretation, the models' predictions are not reassuring either. A paper by scientists from the Hadley Research Centre of Britain's Meteorological Office and others, presented earlier this year at a symposium on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change”, rated a shutdown of the Gulf Stream over the next century as “unlikely”, but reckoned that a slowdown of up to 50% was likely. Another paper presented at the same meeting saw a two-in-three chance that it would shut down over the next 200 years.

EyevineNow you see it, now you don't: Blomstrandbreen glacier, Norway, 1918 and 2002

How much would a shutdown matter? That is another thing that the big guns of climate change disagree on. “You could have icebergs around Britain,” says David Griggs, director of climate research at Britain's Met Office. Daniel Schrag, professor of geochemistry at Harvard's department of Earth and planetary sciences, has a different take. “Models that predict THC shutdown caused by warming never produce overall cooling, but only reduce the warming effect in coastal areas of Scotland and Scandinavia.”

The other marine subject that has caught people's attention recently is the rise in sea levels. So far this has been relatively small, but if it accelerates, it could become the most serious consequence of climate change.


Brimming over

In March 2002 Ted Scambos, a scientist from the University of Colorado, was examining images from NASA's Modis satellite and noticed something odd going on at the Larsen B ice shelf (a floating extension of a glacier) on the Antarctic Peninsula in the west of the continent. He alerted the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, which sent a ship over to have a look. Meanwhile, an Argentine glaciologist based in Antarctica, Pedro Skvarca, took an aeroplane over the shelf. That is how pictures of the first recorded collapse of a big Antarctic ice shelf were obtained.

Most of the ice in the Arctic is sea ice, so when it melts the sea level doesn't change much. Ice in Greenland and Antarctica, by contrast, is mostly on land. Greenland's ice sheet is up to 3km (1.9 miles) thick; Antarctica's 4.2km. If all of Greenland's ice were to melt, sea levels would rise by around 7 metres; if West Antarctica's were to go, that would add another 6 metres; and if East Antarctica's ice melted—which nobody thinks likely for the foreseeable future—sea levels would go up by a devastating further 70 metres. Even a 1-metre rise would flood 17% of Bangladesh's land mass and cause serious problems for coastal cities such as London and New York.

The sea level has varied sharply during the Earth's history. At the peak of the most recent ice age, around 18,000 years ago, it was 130 metres lower than it is now; but through most of the planet's history it has been much higher. Over the past 100 years, it seems to have risen, on average, by about 10-20cm, but measuring that accurately has proved surprisingly hard.

The sea is not like a bath. If you pour water in at one end, it does not necessarily spread itself evenly. Sea levels are currently falling in the northern Pacific, the north-west Indian Ocean and near Antarctica; they are rising over most of the tropics and subtropics. That is because some seas are warming (and hence expanding) and some cooling (and hence contracting), and because the wind shifts water around.

At the same time, land is moving up and down, because parts of the northern hemisphere are still bouncing back from the weight of the ice sheets they were carrying 20 millennia ago, and the southern parts of those continents are going down as the northern parts go up. So Scandinavia is rising by around a metre a century; Loch Lomond in Scotland is rising by around 1mm a year; and London is sinking by about the same amount.

Until 13 years ago, all the available data on sea levels were collected by hand from ancient tide-gauges. But in 1992 satellite data became available that allowed sea levels to be measured in the middle of the oceans as well as at their edges. Those data suggest that sea levels are currently rising by around 3mm a year; land-based data suggest that the rise accelerated from an average of around 2mm a year over the past century to 4mm in the 1990s.

Sea levels are rising for two reasons—because water expands as it warms, and because ice is melting. That is where Larsen B, and some new findings from Greenland, come in.

The collapse of Larsen B was not, in itself, all that important. What matters is the relationship of ice shelves to the glacier and the ice sheet behind them. “If ice sheets are cathedrals,” says Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University, “ice shelves are the flying buttresses that secure them.” Ice shelves are especially vulnerable because there is water underneath them; and if the water warms, the ice shelves get thinner. Mr Alley reckons that for every 1°C increase in water temperature, ice shelves shrink by 10 metres.


Galloping glaciers

Scientists knew that Larsen B was deteriorating, but had not expected what happened after it collapsed. It turned out to have been acting as a brake on the glaciers behind it. When it went, they started moving faster; and the faster they move, the faster they melt. According to data analysed by Dr Scambos, the four glaciers behind Larsen B were moving between two and six times as fast in 2003 as they were in 2000. Another paper, by Eric Rignot, a NASA scientist, showed speeds increasing by up to eight times. Even so, the pace remains glacial: before the shelf collapsed, the ice was travelling at a few hundred metres a year; after, at a couple of kilometres.

In southern Greenland, too, change is afoot. Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland's largest glacier, which drains 6.5% of Greenland's ice-sheet area, doubled its speed between 1997 and 2003. It is so large that its contribution to sea-level rise is measurable: about 0.06mm a year, or roughly 4% of the rate of sea-level increase in the 20th century.

However, the rate of glacier melt by itself does not determine sea levels. The big issue is the “mass balance” of ice in Greenland and Antarctica—whether, overall, ice sheets are growing or shrinking. There are no signs of glaciers in northern Greenland or East Antarctica speeding up. In West Antarctica, one of the three main outlets (which includes the glaciers behind Larsen B) seems to be speeding up, but another (the most volatile) may be slowing down. Meanwhile, snow falls on ice sheets, replacing some of the lost ice.

Nobody knows what is happening to the mass balance of Antarctica. Greenland's does seem to be shrinking very slightly—by around 0.4mm a year, in sea-level equivalent. That would be only 4cm a century, if the rate stayed constant. But there is no reason to think that the rate will stay constant—nor, if it did accelerate, that anything could be done to stop it.

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Warming may set off mechanisms that make it warmer still


In the loop

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Warming may set off mechanisms that make it warmer still

THE baffling complexity of the climate—and thus the difficulty of predicting what is going to happen to it—arises principally from its feedback loops. Scientists are finding out about ever more of them, which is why things don't seem to be getting much clearer over time.

Feedback loops may be either positive, thus reinforcing warming, or negative, countering it. Most of the main ones scientists have identified are positive; others are little understood and might go either way.

Feedback is the source of the scientists' biggest worry. Looking at previous episodes of dramatic climate change, they reckon that a bit of warming may set off mechanisms that lead to much more warming; and that once that starts happening, mankind will lose the opportunity to control the pace of change. Among the main feedback loops are:

Albedo—the tendency to reflect rather than absorb light. White areas reflect sunlight and dark areas absorb it, so as ice melts and the Earth's albedo decreases, the world absorbs more energy and warms up even more.

Ocean absorption. The sea absorbs CO2. Colder seas absorb more than warmer ones, so as they warm they will tend to absorb less, leaving more in the atmosphere.

Soil respiration. The soil emits CO2. Warming may lead to an exponential rise in microbial activity, which would cause emissions to rise faster than the increase in vegetation could absorb them. There is a particular worry about greenhouse gases in tundra around the Arctic: if the tundra melted, they would start to be released.

Clouds. Whether the feedback from clouds is positive or negative is the source of a big argument among scientists. Professor Richard Lindzen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the few remaining serious scientists who doubt that climate change is a problem, believes in what he calls the “iris effect”: that, just as the eye's iris closes up when a bright light is shone upon it, so a warmer world will produce more water vapour which will form clouds and block out sunlight. Others argue that the clouds thus formed will merely shut in the heat.

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Jamie has the wrong recipe: Telling people what to eat is not the way to fight obesity. We supermarkets must provide more facts


Jamie has the wrong recipe

Telling people what to eat is not the way to fight obesity. We supermarkets must provide more facts

Justin King
Tuesday September 12, 2006

The Guardian

Last week Jamie Oliver, who fronts Sainsbury's advertising and has done so much to highlight the importance of healthy eating, used colourful language to criticise parents who allow children to eat junk food and become obese. He has a point. By 2010 one million British children are destined to be obese. A generation of overweight and unfit children are the overweight and unfit adults of the future. This will put substantial pressure on public services, notably the NHS.

But while I agree with Jamie's drive to get children eating healthily, his attack is neither correct nor the best way to achieve change. I ate crisps when I was young and drank fizzy drinks. My children do the same, and they should be allowed to enjoy them. There is no such thing as bad food - just bad diets. Moderation and variety are the key. Dictating to people - or unleashing an expletive-filled tirade - is not the way to get engagement. We need to make it easier for people to understand the true content of foods and let them make informed decisions.

Some critics view supermarkets as part of the problem - pushing junk food, high in fat and salt, into consumers' mouths. But we have a unique role to play. We have contact with shoppers every week and understand how they behave, what turns them off and on. As a result we can help inform our customers about the food they buy.

Clear, simple labelling has to be the most powerful tool to get the nation eating healthily. I fail to see why some manufacturers and retailers refuse to adopt the Food Standards Agency recommendation of a multiple traffic light (MTL) labelling system. Independent research shows that customers find it the easiest to understand. Most look at information for just a few seconds, so labelling must provide information at a glance.

The MTL system works - 80% of our customers say it influences what they buy, and our sales figures show they are opting for green and amber products ahead of those marked with red. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that companies shunning the system are reluctant to put a red label on products.

We have been using red, amber and green for nearly two years, and there is nothing to fear in helping customers understand a product's true nutritional content. When we realise a product that we are developing will be labelled red, we automatically ask how it can be made healthier.

Learning to appreciate good food and eating healthily is best started at an early age. Cooking should be on the curriculum in primary and secondary schools. It's good to see that from September 2008 cookery will be back on the school timetable, but it must be taken seriously, with proper funding.

A healthy lifestyle is not just about calories in. It is also about calories out - exercise. Activity levels, especially among children, have fallen dramatically in recent years; a national reluctance to get off the sofa is a major factor in obesity. Our Active Kids programme is designed to get more children exercising. It is not just about supporting traditional sports. Our research shows that children striving to get into a school team are generally fit and healthy - it is those not in the team that should be the main concern, because they often stop exercising completely. By Christmas the scheme will have delivered about £34m of equipment - an average of over £1,000 for every school in the country.

Tomorrow we are taking another step - a meeting of parents, experts and government figures to help tackle the problems parents face in providing a healthy lifestyle. But it would be foolish to think enough is being done. Jamie Oliver will no doubt continue to remind us of the issue, but it needs more effort by us all.

· Justin King is the chief executive of J Sainsbury plc

Justin_King@Sainsburys.co.uk

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The real thing: Sunita Narain, an Indian environmentalist, has dented two of the world's glossiest brands


The real thing
Aug 24th 2006
From The Economist print edition



Sunita Narain, an Indian environmentalist, has dented two of the world's glossiest brands




NOT much renders Sunita Narain speechless. But watching television on August 22nd and hearing India's health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, describe her to parliament as a “good friend”, she was for a moment lost for words. Mr Ramadoss was in the process of (ever so politely) rubbishing a controversial piece of work by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Ms Narain's research and lobbying group, based in Delhi. On August 2nd CSE had reported that its laboratory had tested soft drinks made by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, bought in various parts of India, and found them to contain pesticide residues far above limits recommended by the government's Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Mr Ramadoss was, in effect, backing the cola giants in their rebuttal of CSE's claims.

For some foreign firms the controversy illustrates much that is troublesome about doing business in India's argumentative democracy. On this view, CSE, a small, 100-strong outfit led by the articulate and charismatic Ms Narain, wields a disproportionate influence. It is able to do so by tapping the deep vein of Indian suspicion of globalisation in general and of big multinationals in particular. What better exemplifies the evils of Coca-Colanisation, say protectionists, than cola itself? It is sweet, alluring and rather glamorous. But not only does it make you fat and rot your teeth—it turns out to be poisonous, too. There is even a Bollywood film, “Corporate”, inspired by CSE's cola battles.

Ms Narain, however, is adamant that CSE is not opposed to foreign investment, economic liberalisation or private entrepreneurship. Rather, her organisation's stress is on the need, as the economy opens up, “to strengthen oversight and the institutions that look after the public good”. Its real target is neither Coca-Cola nor PepsiCo, but the government and its alleged failure to protect public health. CSE is “in permanent opposition”. This provides it with powerful, if shifting, political allies. The credibility won by an impressive record of accuracy and probity has made both CSE and Ms Narain forces to be reckoned with, by government and multinationals alike.

Its latest soft-drinks report has led the governments of several Indian states to ban the sale of PepsiCo's and Coca-Cola's products in schools and government offices. One state, Kerala, has introduced total prohibition, which the companies have challenged in the courts. The bans prompted Franklin Lavin, a senior American trade official, to weigh in, lamenting this “setback” for the Indian economy. “At a time when India is working hard to attract and retain foreign investment,” he noted, “it would be unfortunate if the discussions were dominated by those who did not want to treat foreign companies fairly.”

The damage done to sales through government action, however, is less important than the bad publicity. Neither company will quantify the losses it has suffered. But both have mounted campaigns advertising the safety of their products. They say both that the CSE test results are wrong, and that, even if true, the levels of pesticide are negligible and of no danger at all to human health. They point out that rice, for example, is permitted to contain 34,180 times more pesticide residues than bottled water, which has, they say, similar levels to fizzy drinks. They insinuate ulterior motives behind CSE's campaign.

Ms Narain argues that some residues must be tolerated in food, since farmers use pesticides to grow crops. But for soft drinks, she says, there is no excuse for the presence of pesticides, since the technology exists to clean the water quite cheaply. An earlier CSE report in 2003 that found pesticide traces in the companies' products led to the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate. This found that there were indeed pesticides in the carbonated drinks, and directed the government to draw up standards.

The BIS has since done that, but the standards have not been implemented. PepsiCo argues that you can reliably test for residues in the water, sugar and concentrate that go into its drinks, but not in the drinks themselves. Yet, like Coca-Cola, which has produced reports from a British laboratory apparently contradicting CSE's findings, it would accept such “final-product standards” if “a robust enough process” were available. It was the BIS's failure to implement such standards—blamed by Ms Narain on the health ministry, under pressure from the cola firms—that prompted CSE to undertake its follow-up study.


Passionate rigour

In the 25 years since Ms Narain went to work as a volunteer with CSE's founder, Anil Agarwal, it has had successes that must make it the envy of other activist groups. Most famously, the group's campaign against air pollution in the 1990s was largely credited with the decision to use compressed natural gas as fuel in Delhi's buses, taxis and three-wheeled “autorickshaws”. Normally, says Ms Narain, “the scale of the disaster overshadows the scale of the intervention.” In this, however, CSE made a difference. She is just as proud, however, of the way the group has brought rainwater-harvesting to the centre of the debate about how to cope with India's worsening water shortage—an achievement that won CSE last year's Stockholm water prize.

Ms Narain joined CSE from high school, because she was drawn to Agarwal's vision of allying “the rigour of science to the passion of journalism”, and inherited his mantle when he died in 2002. At the time, some doubted whether CSE could maintain its standing. But this week, even Coca-Cola came close to suing for peace, leaking a letter “respectfully” disagreeing with the CSE laboratory's findings, but asking for talks. CSE agreed—provided the agenda is confined to the implementation of the final-product standard. A non-scientist, Ms Narain is proud of having one useful journalistic habit: never being afraid to ask a stupid question. So far, at least, CSE has not given many stupid answers.

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Electric vehicles part of Japanese plan to reduce oil dependence


Electric vehicles part of Japanese plan to reduce oil dependence

Posted Aug 28th 2006 2:33PM by Bruno Vanzieleghem
Filed under:
EV/Plug-in, Transportation Alternatives

While GM might have killed the electric car, it seems the Japanese government plans to revive it. A panel set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan has put together a plan to develop the next generation of environmentally friendly vehicles and batteries, to reduce the country's oil consumption. The plan calls for introduction of environmentally friendly vehicles in stages, and will support a project to develop next-generation batteries to power automobiles. Japan wants to have a two-seater electric vehicle capable of traveling 50 miles per charge in mass production by 2010. The government plans to offer incentives to make the vehicles widespread, and it plans to develop the needed infrastructure for them. By 2030, the panel hopes local car makers will mass-produce electric vehicles powered by batteries, and a significantly lower cost compared to current offerings.

(Note: Pictured is an 8-wheel EV developed by researchers at Keio University in Japan)

Note created Aug 28, 2006
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Consumers Show Strong Interest in Flex-Fuel and Plug-in Vehicles


Consumers Show Strong Interest in Flex-Fuel and Plug-in Vehicles

GreenBiz.com, 22 August 2006 - A new study by global market research company Synovate shows that 37% of US consumers would consider purchasing a flex-fuel vehicle that runs on gasoline or E85 (85% ethanol) the next time they are in the market to buy a car. However, more than a third of these same consumers lose interest in E85 flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) when they learn that there is a reduction in fuel economy.

This information came from Synovate's latest semi-annual survey of consumer attitudes toward advanced propulsion and alternative fuel vehicles.

"It certainly appears as if consumers have bought into the appeal of a Flex Fuel vehicle that can run on either gasoline or E85," explained Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate Motoresearch. "However, consumers also are largely unaware that they will experience a 25% loss in fuel economy when the vehicle is running on Ethanol. While we really don't expect this reality to impact sales of Flex Fuel vehicles, it will generate disappointment among enthusiastic buyers. It also means that E85 will have to retain a substantially lower price per gallon over gasoline for it to have any impact on consumption."

The study, conducted among 1,240 buyers and those intending to buy new light duty cars and trucks, also found that while awareness of hybrids is now very high among US consumers, consideration of a hybrid vehicle has flattened at just under 50%.

The biggest surprise in the study was the high consideration of grid-connected or "plug-in" hybrids. Familiarity with the technology is currently low but, after hearing an explanation of a grid-connected hybrid, 49% of consumers said they would consider purchasing one, roughly the same level of consideration as standard hybrid technology.

Grid-connected hybrids offer some unique advantages to consumers. According to Tim Englehart, Manager of Alternative Fuels Studies at Synovate Motoresearch, "Plugging the vehicle in at home means fewer trips to the gas station and lower operating costs. The unknown with this technology is the additional purchase cost. However, there is a considerable group of consumers who are willing to pay to get these unique benefits. It would also be an excellent way to transfer some of the country's dependence on oil to the national resources we use to power the electric power grid. We believe it's something to watch."

Diesel technology is a hot topic in the US and another focus of the Synovate study. Consideration among US consumers remains low at roughly half the consideration of hybrids. However, Miller says the numbers can be misleading. "The story around diesels is not the percent of US consumers who will consider it, just those who are very interested. Our data give us strong reason to believe that if manufacturers can meet the emissions requirements of the new diesel legislation, some are going to surprise the market with the products they introduce and the buyers to whom those vehicles appeal."

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Asda boss calls on rival Tesco for co-operation over sustainability


Asda boss calls on rival Tesco for co-operation over sustainability

By Elizabeth Rigby, Retail Correspondent

Published: August 30 2006 03:00 | Last updated: August 30 2006 03:00

Andy Bond will today present himself as the green ambassador of the British supermarket industry when he announces plans to host a sustainability conference later in the year.

In a thinly veiled attack on arch-rival Tesco, which has been running a high-profile green campaign over the past few months, the chief executive of Asda said he was concerned thatsustainability had becomea "flag-waving exercise" rather than a genuine attempt to help customers and the environment.

Mr Bond said he was planning to write to all grocery chief executives to invite them to the Asda Sustainability conference to share expertise on packaging and renewable energy.

"It will be a better conference if Tesco comes along and acts in a pro-active manner," he said.

"We don't want to quash competition but I do think that the current issues go beyond just competitive advantage.

"This is a moral issue and I think we should do more than just what is best for the Asda shopper."

Tesco and Wal-Mart-owned Asda have had a number of small spats about green issues, with Asda angered recently when Tesco made a big play about moving goods off the roads and on to rail.

The kernel of discount was the fact that this is something that Asda has been doing since 2003.

Mr Bond will today confirm that Asda's Dartford depot will be its first distribution centre not to send any waste to landfill.

Asda has pledged that all its stores and depots will recycle or re-use all waste by 2010.

He will also say he is planning to make all Asda stores 30 per cent more energy-efficient over that time-frame, drawing lessons from Wal-Mart's initiative in the US to invest $500m (£264m) in new technologies. Meanwhile, Mr Bond, who has run Asda for 15 months, said he was "pretty confident and bullish" about the retailer's prospects after a difficult start to his tenure.

The chain has missed its profit targets for four successive quarters, evidence that Asda has lost its edge on pricing and customer service to its competitors.

Mr Bond, who at the end of 2005 said recovery would not come until summer 2007 at the earliest, said sales growth was coming back after being in decline for 3 to 4 years.

"In a relatively short space of time that decline has turned around and underlying sales are in positive figures. We are beating the sales plan."

Mr Bond also stressed that Asda had only "moderately" missed profit targets in the three months to the end of July.

"We have been getting sales recovery without trashing profitability," said Mr Bond. "Tesco has done a great job at maintainingmargins in tough times. Sainsbury and Morrison have seen a significant decline and our operating margins are almost what they were a the turn of the century."

Mr Bond, having proclaimed last December thatJ Sainsbury would overtake Asda in 2006 to become the UK's second-largest supermarket chain, said the switch was "no longer inevitable".

"Sainsbury has done a lot of good stuff for consumers but we have stayed ahead," he said, adding: "I don't want to declare victory too early."

He also said Asda, which has been experimenting with new store formats during the past year, was also going to broaden its appeal by reaching out to more affluent customers through a relaunch of its "extra special" range and a bigger push into organic goods.

Mr Bond said price-cutting would continue, arguing that reaching upmarket did not mean Asda would ignore its core customers.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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Opportunities to profit from the honourable poor


Opportunities to profit from the honourable poor

Financial Times, 29 August 2006 - The idea that money can be made from the poor has attracted much interest in the past couple of years, fuelled by books such as The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and Banker to the Poor.

Brazil is one market with plenty of potential. Millions of people live near the poverty line. Income distribution is among the most un­equal in the world. More than half of all jobs are in the informal sector. More than half of the economically active population have no bank account.

Attempts to tap this potential have had mixed success. From 2002 several banks began handing out microconsumer credit to the unbanked on the premise that the poor were good payers. It turned out that the poor were unused to this kind of credit and delinquency rates have been much higher than expected.

But there are success ­stories. One such is Casas Bahia, a retailer of household goods (and a case study in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid), which has been making money successfully from low-income consumers for decades, largely on the premise that the poor do indeed make good payers - if properly screened.

Michael Klein, managing director, says one reason for the company's success lies in something understood by his father, a Polish immigrant, when he began selling table and bed linen from a handcart more than 50 years ago: "He understood that the poor want to be treated with respect. They want to be treated as if they were rich."

Five decades on, with annual sales of RDollars 12bn (Pounds 2.94bn), this is still the case. "We help people achieve citizenship," Mr Klein says. "When one of our lorries delivers a refrigerator to a house in a favela (shanty town), it tells the neighbours that this customer is an honest person, a person of dignity and responsibility, a person with access to credit."

Casas Bahia has 530 shops within a 1,000km radius of its distribution centre outside Sao Paulo. Holding stock and owning its distribution system are central to the business - no "just in time" here.

"In Brazil you can only sell what you already have," Mr Klein says. "What you are about to receive is an unknown." Customs officers go on strike, roads from factories in the Amazon are closed by rain - any number of things can upset the best plans. "Warehousing is expensive", he says, "but it means you can make a quick sale."

The real secret of Casas Bahia's success, however, lies in its system of customer finance. Just 10 per cent of sales are paid for in full at time of purchase. Of the remainder, 20 per cent go on credit cards - a recent innovation, introduced four years ago - and the rest on hire purchase traditionally financed by Casas Bahia's own capital (although since 2004, 25 per cent of this portfolio has been financed by Bradesco, Brazil's biggest private sector bank).

"This is the thing that really makes Casas Bahia stand alone," Mr Klein says. "Two-thirds of our credit goes to people who, to the tax and labour authorities, simply don't exist."

Customers may be domestic cleaners, construction workers or stallholders not registered by employers. While they are outside the formal economy, Mr Klein insists they are not "marginals".

To make sure they will pay, all customers wanting credit are interviewed by sales staff. To the customer, the interview may appear to consist largely of informal chat. If a customer says he is a house painter, for example, the interviewer will say she is thinking of painting her living room and ask roughly how much paint would be needed, to make sure the customer knows his trade. Once the customer's income has been established, staff will make sure he is not committing to payments beyond his means, sometimes suggesting a smaller television, for example.

The strategy is not fool-proof and delinquency rates are high, at about 8 to 9 per cent. But interest rates are high too - an average of 4.5 per cent a month, or about 70 per cent a year, with a top rate of 5.9 per cent a month. If a customer buys a cooker on a 12-month plan, for example, about half the total cost will consist of interest.

So why do customers not save for six months instead and pay half the price up front? "Brazilians have no habit of saving," Mr Klein says. "They worry only about how much they can pay each month." He says they would rather commit immediately to monthly payments and then work extra shifts or take a second job.

A business based on its customers' inability to plan ahead may sound precarious. But such behaviour seems firmly entrenched. At some of Casas Bahia's stores, 80 per cent of sales go to customers who have used the store's credit before.

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Alcan Helps Launch Global Map on Energy and Climate


Alcan Helps Launch Global Map on Energy and Climate

GreenBiz.com, 28 August 2006 - Alcan has helped launch the first ever global map on energy and climate, along with its project partners, the energy company Centrica and corporate responsibility specialist Maplecroft.

The map explores the interrelated challenges of energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, and was produced with the help of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Initiative of the World Economic Forum.

"This ground-breaking map illustrates an issue that has become a critical focal point for business and society today: energy. As such, Alcan is proud to partner with organisations that are committed to addressing energy use, GHG emissions, and climate change by charting approaches that will help promote the sustainability of our operations and of this planet," said Richard Evans, President and Chief Executive Officer, Alcan Inc.

The global map of energy and climate includes:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions map and data - countries are shaded according to Maplecroft's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Index and data tables provide detailed information on emissions levels and trends in 184 countries;
  • In-depth analysis of energy and climate issues - including the role of energy in development, the greenhouse effect and the impacts of climate change on the natural world and on people and society;
  • Focus on business engagement - making the case for business action on energy and climate issues and detailing what steps business can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Case studies - giving examples of measures business has taken to address the issues of energy and climate.
"Many industry leaders recognise that climate change has the potential to have large impacts on business. Companies should work to increase efficiency, make use of alternative energy sources and develop innovative carbon offset schemes that promote technology transfer and deliver benefits to developing countries," said Professor Alyson Warhurst, Director, Maplecroft.

The map was researched, designed and developed by Maplecroft. The project was supported by data from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
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Plastic batteries coming soon?


Plastic batteries coming soon?
Posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 10:37 am
Digg This!

Engineers at Brown University have built a prototype of an hybrid plastic battery that uses a conductive polymer. The system, which marries the power of a capacitor with the storage capacity of a battery, can store and deliver power efficiently. For example, during performance testing, "it delivered more than 100 times the power of a standard alkaline battery." Still, it's unlikely that such a device can appear on the market before several years. But read more…

Here is how the idea of such an hybrid battery came from.

"Batteries have limits," said Tayhas Palmore, an associate professor in Brown's Division of Engineering. "They have to be recharged. They can be expensive. Most of all, they don't deliver a lot of power. Another option is capacitors. These components, found in electronic devices, can deliver that big blast of power. But they don't have much storage capacity. So what if you combined elements of both a battery and a capacitor?"

Palmore, who worked with Hyun-Kon Song, a former postdoctoral research associate at Brown, decided to use polypyrrole, a conductive polymer which led to the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

In their experiments, Palmore and Song took a thin strip of gold-coated plastic film and covered the tip with polypyrrole and a substance that alters its conductive properties. The process was repeated, this time using another kind of conduction-altering chemical. The result: Two strips with different polymer tips. The plastic strips were then stuck together, separated by a papery membrane to prevent a short circuit.

Below is a picture of the prototype of this new hybrid battery (Credit: John Abromowski/Brown University).

And how does this prototype deliver?

Like a capacitor, the battery can be rapidly charged then discharged to deliver power. Like a battery, it can store and deliver that charge over long periods of time. During performance testing, the new battery performed like a hybrid, too. It had twice the storage capacity of an electric double-layer capacitor. And it delivered more than 100 times the power of a standard alkaline battery.

Still, this new battery, which is smaller than an iPod Nano, suffers from some performance problems — "such as decreased storage capacity after repeated recharging" — which need to be solved before such batteries arrive on the market.

For more information, this research work has been published by Advanced Materials under the title "Redox-Active Polypyrrole: Toward Polymer-Based Batteries" (Volume 18, Issue 13, Pages 1764-1768). Here is a link to the article if you're a registered reader of Wiley InterScience.

Sources: Brown University news release, September 13, 2006; and various web site

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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The people problem in talent management: Talent-management processes can't work if managers don't think it's important to develop their people.


The people problem in talent management

Talent-management processes can't work if managers don't think it's important to develop their people.

Matthew Guthridge, Asmus B. Komm, and Emily Lawson

2006 Number 2

Increasingly, companies view the ability to manage talent effectively as a strategic priority.1 Yet our research finds that senior executives largely blame themselves and their business line managers for failing to give the issue enough time and attention. They also believe that insular "silo" thinking and a lack of collaboration across the organization remain considerable handicaps. Moreover, executives who think that their companies' succession-planning efforts are deficient don't, on balance, see talent-management processes and systems as the chief problem.

The results of our research—which included in-depth interviews with 50 CEOs, business unit leaders, and human-resources (HR) professionals from around the world—suggest that the obstacles preventing talent-management programs from delivering business value are all too human (exhibit).2 As one leader commented, "Habits of mind are the real barriers to talent management."

Your javascript is turned off. Javascript is required to view exhibits.

Nearly half of the interviewees expressed concern that the senior leadership of their organizations doesn't align talent-management strategies with business strategies. "This is a real blind spot for our leaders—they don't realize the importance and significance of it," commented one HR executive. Furthermore, 54 percent of those interviewed agreed that senior managers don't spend enough time on talent management. "Senior managers aren't managing their time well or don't see the point of managing people and getting the best out of them," lamented one respondent.

Business line managers—the group responsible for a company's day-to-day operations—were found equally culpable. Fifty-two percent of the respondents identified an insufficient commitment to developing talent on the part of line managers as a critical barrier. Moreover, 50 percent observed that line managers were unwilling to categorize their people as top, average, or underperforming, and 45 percent felt that line managers failed to deal with chronic underperformance by employees. As one interviewee noted, "We recognize underperformance, but the challenge is what to do about it. We find it difficult to have the 'hard' conversations."

Silo thinking—focusing on the interests of one part of the organization rather than the whole—not only hinders the mobility of talent within a company but also undermines the sharing of knowledge and the development of interpersonal networks (or "social capital") across the organization. It was singled out as a problem by 51 percent of the interviewees. "People will choose to resign and reapply for another division rather than signal to their manager that they are not committed," complained one European HR director. "Without 'sponsorship,' you're nothing here. You're basically seen as a traitor to your division."

Succession planning and a lack of understanding about the organization's most critical jobs remained significant barriers for 39 percent of respondents, though interviewees blamed an inability to exploit the data they produce rather than corporate succession-management systems. "We do succession planning to an unbelievable degree," said another European HR manager. "But once we do it, we don't use it. Never have we reviewed a senior vacancy and looked at the succession plan. It's almost done as just another tick in the HR box."

The findings show how the debate over talent management has evolved in recent years as demographic changes, deregulation, and the economic shift toward developing markets have intensified. A 1998 study, for example, found that managers were concerned with the ability of their companies to attract talent or to install efficient and robust systems in areas such as performance management, feedback, and recruitment processes.3

Our interviews suggest that those concerns are fading. The vast majority of the respondents, for example, disagreed with the suggestion that the value proposition of their companies—whatever distinguishes one organization from another in the eyes of applicants—is an impediment to attracting quality people.

These recent findings, which are consistent with the results of an earlier European study,4 reflect what we see in our client work: talent management cannot be isolated from business strategy. Companies achieve the best outcomes by actively involving senior leaders in talent development during the early stages of strategy formulation. Those that rely solely on HR to drive their strategy for talent are missing an opportunity to align the behavior and capabilities of the workforce with the priorities of the business. Executives should find ways to make line managers unambiguously responsible for developing the skills and knowledge of their employees—by including people development as an explicit objective in annual evaluations, for example. Without compelling top-team role models, however, this effort would likely prove an uphill struggle.

Organizations should also make bold moves to break down internal silos by moving talent around (through rotations and international assignments, for example) 5 and by creating formal networks to foster the relationships that promote the sharing of knowledge across divisions. As one business unit executive explained, "The top 500 [people] should be owned by the top team and not by the divisional fiefdoms."

About the Authors

Matt Guthridge is a consultant and Emily Lawson is a principal in McKinsey's London office, and Asmus Komm is a principal in the Hamburg office.

Notes

1 Steven D. Carden, Lenny T. Mendonca, and Tim Shavers, "What global executives think about growth and risk," The McKinsey Quarterly, 2005 Number 2, pp. 16–25.

2 The respondents represented 29 multinational companies operating in a range of industries and regions spanning Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

3 Elizabeth G. Chambers, Mark Foulon, Helen Handfield-Jones, Steven M. Hankin, and Edward G. Michaels III, "The war for talent," The McKinsey Quarterly, 1998 Number 3, pp. 44–57.

4 Emily Lawson, Jens Mueller-Oerlinghausen, and Julie A. Shearn, "A dearth of HR talent," The McKinsey Quarterly, 2005 Number 2, pp. 13–5.

5 See "Making a market in talent," available online in late March.

Note created Sep 5, 2006
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EPA moves to implement renewable fuels mandate


EPA moves to implement renewable fuels mandate

Greenwire, 8 September 2006 - U.S. EPA took a big step today toward implementing the most publicly discussed portion of last year's Energy Policy Act by proposing a regulatory system that will nearly double domestic biofuel use.

The regulation, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), establishes a credit-trading system that will mandate the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol nationwide by 2012 -- up from 4 billion gallons this year.

EPA touted the proposed rule as a significant step to reducing both domestic gasoline use and some air pollutants, as well as providing a boost to the agricultural sector.

"For years, our nation's rolling farm fields have filled America's breadbaskets," Administrator Stephen Johnson said. "Now, by helping meet President Bush's renewable energy goals, these same fields are filling America's gas tanks."

The agency estimates that by 2012 the mandate will reduce petroleum consumption by somewhere between 2.3 billion to 3.9 billion gallons -- slightly more than 1 percent of the petroleum that would be used in the transportation sector.

EPA's analysis also estimates the mandate will result in reduction of several pollutants -- carbon monoxide emissions will be cut by 1.3 to 3.6 percent, benzene emissions will be cut by 1.7 to 6.2 percent and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 0.4 to 0.6 percent.

But the increased ethanol use is also anticipated to increase emissions of volatile organic compounds plus nitrogen oxides by up to 97,000 tons.

Additionally, agency estimates show that the mandate will increase the cost of a gallon of gasoline by somewhere between 0.3 and 1 cent per gallon.

But refining industry officials disputed some of the EPA's claims on price and pollution reductions, saying that a federal mandate could drive inflate prices while doing little to actually increase renewable fuel use.

"Given widespread agreement that there will be a continuing need for [biofuels] in the future, as there is today, government intervention to mandate their inclusion only raises the cost of manufacturing the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies," National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Bob Slaughter said in a statement. "The mandate requires that consumers pay more for renewable materials that would have been available at lower, market-based prices if no mandate existed."

Additionally, Slaughter questioned the agency's projection that the new mandate would result in a slight reduction in GHG emissions.

"Experts who have studied the impact of renewables' use on greenhouse gas emissions strongly disagree on whether any reduction occurs if all factors, including crop production, are considered," Slaughter said. "The consensus on this point would appear to be that there is only a marginal reduction, if any."

Air quality advocates also expressed concern this morning about the anticipated increase in some other pollutants.

"Energy independence and protection of public health need not be mutually exclusive," said Bill Becker, head of two associations representing state and local air pollution officials. "We are troubled that EPA's proposal will significantly increase smog-forming emissions in many areas of the country. We are further concerned that these increases will obstruct state strategies to meet the health-based smog standards."

Besides just officially putting in place the mandate, EPA's far-reaching proposal outlines a complex credit-trading system that will be used to regulate the ethanol market.

EPA's proposal identifies exactly who can generate credits for ethanol, how the credits can be transferred and the different values for credits depending on certain types of fuel.

The proposal calls for identifying each gallon of renewable fuel with a unique 34-character renewable identification number (RIN). A gallon of corn-based ethanol will essentially equal 1 RIN, while other biofuels would have different values. A gallon of cellulosic ethanol would be worth 2.5 RIN while a gallon of biodiesel would have 1.5 times the value.

Fuel refiners and importers are designated as "obligated parties" for meeting the RFS mandate. Obligated parties can either blend their prescribed amounts of renewable fuels into gasoline or can purchase the RIN credits if they do not want to use the biofuel.

Additionally, EPA's proposed policy includes a slew of compliance provisions -- including such as requirements for record-keeping, facility registration and fuel tracking.

EPA has spent much of the last year building the ethanol credit-trading system essentially from scratch. Although last year's energy bill set specific annual levels for ethanol use, it provided little guidance to the agency as to exactly how to regulate the ethanol markets.

Still, Bill Wehrum, EPA acting assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday that the agency believes that it has put together a proposal that "broad stakeholder support" and can be adopted fairly quickly.

EPA intends to finalize the rule by early 2007, although Wehrum also said yesterday that schedule may slip unless the agency receives additional funding from Congress.

The agency is seeking more than $11 million dollars from Congress for fiscal 2007 to implement the rule. But the Interior-Environment Senate bill currently awaiting floor consideration would give the agency $1.4 million for implementation of the rule and the already-approved House spending bill contains roughly $2.4 million for the program.

Wehrum indicated yesterday that the RFS would remain a high-priority for the agency, but he said the potential cuts would slow the regulatory process either for that rule or other air pollution regulations.

"We would have to go through another priority review the way we did this year," Wehrum said. "What we may or may not do in the future depends on what Congress may or may not appropriate."

Although the RFS has been touted as a major victory for ethanol producers and has been as cited as perhaps the driving force behind the recent ethanol boon, some experts predict the plan may have a relatively short shelf-life.

The RFS mandates the use of roughly 4 billion gallons in 2005, but current projections show that domestic ethanol could approach 5 billion gallons. And with close to 40 new ethanol plants being built nationwide, federal officials and independent observers say the actual ethanol market may far outpace the RFS mandate.

"At this pace we will easily surpass the goal of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said during a meeting with reporters this morning. "We'll hit that 7.5 billion number pretty quickly. I don't know that it will be next year, but its not far off."

Some lawmakers have already introduced legislation to increase the mandate and a push for a policy will likely come when Congress begins putting together the energy title of the farm bill next year.

Note created Sep 11, 2006
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Vodafone risks massive fine in Greek scandal


Vodafone risks massive fine in Greek scandal

Helena Smith in Athens
Sunday September 17, 2006

The Observer

Vodafone faces record fines of up to €170m (£114m) for its role in an espionage scandal that has shaken the mobile giant's Greek subsidiary.

Leveling eight charges of misconduct against the subsidiary of the UK-based operator, Greece's top independent telecoms watchdog, ADAE, warned of the penalties last week. A final tally of the fines will be announced next month, ADAE said, after its board members have met the company's embattled chief executive, George Koronias.

'There were several alarms in Vodafone [Greece's] system that went off and should have alerted people that [eavesdropping] was taking place,' a member of ADAE's investigative team said.

'Instead, they weren't noticed. That shows the extent of the lack of security at the network.'

Some 106 mobile phones, including those belonging to the Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, leading cabinet members and other high-ranking officials from the country's armed forces, were monitored by 'persons unknown' under the unprecedented surveillance scheme.

Most of the spying, now dubbed the 'Greek Watergate' took place in the run-up to, and during, the August 2004 Athens Olympics when Greece was under intense pressure to purchase costly security systems from its Nato allies.

The bugging devices, described as 'extremely high-tech' by ADAE, were discovered by chance in March 2005, when the rogue software appears to have been reactivated. The equipment was unearthed in Vodafone's central system, following a barrage of complaints from subscribers over missing text messages. 'Whoever planted the software had a very specialised knowledge of the Ericsson equipment that Vodafone uses in the 20 switching centres it has across the country,' the watchdog official said.

'The eavesdroppers could have activated equipment in the system to legally intercept conversations. Instead, they chose software that would leave no trace and that sort of spying is very rare.'

ADAE conducted a four-month investigation after the ruling centre-right government decided to go public with the affair last February.

The scandal, which has also been probed by a parliamentary committee, is set to be investigated further by the Greek judiciary in the coming months.

'What made our job difficult was Vodafone's reluctance to be forthcoming, even when it accepted that tapping had occurred,' he added. 'We had to be very persistent to get any answers from them which seemed to show that they were hiding something.'

In a report released in June, the watchdog criticised Vodafone for dismantling the bugs before authorities could trace the tappers.

A Vodafone spokesman declined to comment on the charges. But the Greek subsidiary acknowledged it had contracted a committee of five university professors to draw up a report that will counter the allegations and indicated that it will take its case to the highest court in the land when the fines are announced.

Note created Sep 18, 2006
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Minority of Top Firms Shuns Climate Change Survey

Minority of Top Firms Shuns Climate Change Survey
UK: September 19, 2006

LONDON - Nearly 30 percent of the world's top companies did not respond to a survey, backed by major investors, about the impact of climate change-related issues on their business, the survey's results showed on Monday.

Investors want to be well-placed to face the effects of climate change -- for example by betting on companies that are planning for expected penalties on burning fossil fuels.

Many have supported the annual survey, the fourth by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and 225 investors with assets of more than US$31 trillion signed a questionnaire sent last February to the world's top companies, members of the FT 500 index.

But the results, published on Monday, showed virtually no change in response rate from surveyed companies -- at 72 percent from 71 percent last year.

"These findings suggest that the response rate to the CDP may have reached a threshold," the authors said.

"A small minority of firms are persistently ignoring the CDP information request."

A list published by CDP showed that big name companies which did not respond this time included Web search leader Google Inc , which was not in the FT 500 in the past surveys, as well as Web search firm Yahoo Inc and French food group Danone, which have answered in previous rounds.

Google, Yahoo and Danone were not immediately available for comment.

Some companies, including telecoms firms and retailers, have ignored every round.

This year the US response rate was up, with 58 percent answering the questions, up from 42 percent in 2005, and many companies outside the FT 500 were surveyed for the first time.

But tangible action on climate change by businesses, beyond answering the FT 500 survey, appeared limited -- fewer than half had implemented a programme to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Fewer responding companies this year felt climate change represented a threat to business, although these still represented a hefty 87 percent versus 92 percent in 2005.

In addition, fewer than half of FT 500 companies provided greenhouse gas emissions data, compared to more than half in the last survey.

International bank HSBC, was "best in class" in the banking sector in Monday's report.

HSBC spent US$750,000 in the last three months of 2005 to achieve its goal of being carbon neutral. This figure compared with record 2005 profits before tax of US$21 billion.

Paul Dickinson, the CDP coordinator, said the next step for the project would be to push for better carbon accounting -- for example systematic counting of emissions -- and to roll out the survey into China, Mexico, India and Russia.


Note created Sep 19, 2006
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Zero net energy building project recruits nine more international companies


Zero net energy building project recruits nine more international companies

Geneva, 5 September, 2006 - The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced today that nine more multinationals have joined the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project. The EEB will map out the necessary changes to achieve a world in which buildings consume zero net energy. The three year project will identify how to demolish barriers, transform attitudes and change the business climate. It will conclude in 2009 with a call to action to all those involved in buildings and energy use.

"Buildings today represent one-third of the world's energy demand, and energy consumption is expected to grow by an additional 45 percent by 2025," said Project Director Christian Kornevall, underlining the urgency for action. "By joining the EEB, these global companies have demonstrated their commitment to sustainable growth for our planet and leadership in transforming the industry," he continued.

The project, announced in March, is led by Lafarge Group and United Technologies Corp. under the umbrella of the WBCSD, a Geneva-based organization that represents some 180 international companies dedicated to sustainable development. Lafarge (NYSE:LR, Euronext:LG) is the world leader in building materials including cement, aggregates, gypsum and roofing. United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) is the world's largest supplier of capital goods including elevators, cooling/heating systems and on-site power systems to the commercial building industry, as well as a leader in aerospace.

The scope of the EEB covers the entire lifecycle of buildings from construction to demolition. The project includes both residential and commercial buildings. It will focus on Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, India, and the US.

Joining the Core Group are:

  • Cemex (NYSE:CX), headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico, and provider of cement, aggregates, paving stones and concrete products to customers in more than 50 countries.
  • DuPont (NYSE:DD), based in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, services many industries, including innovations for commercial and residential construction with products such as energy-saving weatherization systems, glass laminating interlayer, energy efficient, more sustainable refrigerants and advanced materials for solar cells and photovoltaic panels.
  • EDF Group (EURONEXT PARIS:EDF), is an integrated energy supplier, operates in all sectors of the electricity industry: generation, transmission, distribution, sales and trading. It is one of the leading electricity suppliers in Europe. With an installed capacity of 130.8 GW, its business entails the provision of energy and services to more than 40 million customers worldwide. EDF Group business incorporates the choice of an economic model balanced between deregulated and regulated operations in France and across the world.
  • Gaz de France (EURONEXT:GAS), headquartered in Paris, is a leading European natural gas supplier. As an integrated company, Gaz de France enjoys strong positions in all sectors of the natural gas industry, namely: exploration-production, purchase and sale of energy, transmission and storage, distribution and services.
  • ITT (NYSE: ITT), based in White Plains, New York, USA, supplies advanced technology products and services in key markets including: fluid and water management including water treatment; defense communication; opto-electronics; information technology and services; electronic interconnects and switches; and other specialty products.
  • Kansai Electric Power Company, Inc. (TYO:9503) is a leading electricity utility in western Japan (including Osaka, Kyoto, etc.) providing energy services from nuclear, thermal and hydropower plants. The company’s total energy solution through electricity, gas and IT service enriches every customer while pursuing sustainable growth of society.
  • Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (NYSE:PHG; AEX:PHI), headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is one of the world’s biggest electronics companies, with activities in the three interlocking domains of healthcare, lifestyle and technology. It has market leadership positions in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring, color television sets, electric shavers, lighting and silicon system solutions.
  • Sonae Sierra, based in Lisbon, Portugal, is an international specialist in the investment, development and management of shopping and leisure centers, operating in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece and Brazil. Sonae Sierra has had a significant role in the modernization of the shopping center concept, having introduced new formats integrating retail and leisure and several innovative concepts in the shopping centers industry, like the "Green" Shopping centers.
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TKECF.PK), based in Tokyo, supplies electricity to approximately 28 million customers, accounts for approximately one-third of Japan's consumption. It also provides Internet/telephony, gas supply, property & facility services, energy conservation consulting services and others, contributing to better lifestyles and environments.
Other companies are also expected to join the project. The project comprises three phases. The first will identify existing green building practices and obstacles; the second will map out the range of current and future opportunities; the third will produce a call to action for realizing those opportunities.

Notes to the Editor

About the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

The WBCSD brings together some 180 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. Its mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues. The members are drawn from more than 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors. It also benefits from a global network of 50+ national and regional business councils and partner organizations.

About Lafarge

Lafarge (NYSE:LR, Euronext:LG), headquartered in Paris, France, is the world leader in building materials including cement, aggregates, gypsum and roofing. The company employs 80,000 people in 76 countries and posted sales of € 16 billion in 2005. It is the only construction materials company to be listed on the 2006 “100 Global Most Sustainable Corporations in the World".

About United Technologies Corp.

United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), based in Hartford, Conn., USA, is a diversified company that provides high technology products and services to the aerospace and commercial building industries worldwide. The company is a Dow Jones Industrial company that reported US$ 43 billion in 2005 revenues. UTC employs approximately 220,000 people worldwide.

More information is available at www.wbcsd.org/web/eeb.

Note created Sep 11, 2006
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Communicating business responsibility - Learning a new language


Communicating business responsibility - Learning a new language
Mark Goyder
31 Aug 06


The best way to exchange ideas?


Company chiefs need to do more than just give the speeches prepared by their corporate responsibility departments. They need to properly engage with their stakeholders and not just pay lip service, says Mark Goyder
The host was a senior UK government minister. The occasion was a lofty leaders’ dialogue on CSR. The speaker was CEO of a major global company. The subject – the benefits of stakeholder dialogue.

It sounded good. I had the opportunity to ask him a question. Could he give an example where his company had changed its behaviour as a result of the stakeholder dialogue?

It seemed not. He paused for a few seconds, then turned to his vice-president for corporate responsibility: “Peter, perhaps you could think of an example?”

Effective communication is about the exchange of ideas. Before CEOs can begin to communicate effectively about their impacts, they need to change their style.

The same is true of their companies’ reports, especially those on responsible business behaviour. The names of the reports can often change, ranging from CSR to Global Citizenship, but the content rarely does.

Colourful photographs of smiling children from a broad range of ethnic origins are accompanied by the usual bland statements:

“We believe that every successful corporation has a responsibility to use its resources and influence to make a positive impact on the world and its people.” (Microsoft)

The message is nearly always the same. We (the company) have a role to play in nurturing the community in which we operate. Here are all the great things that we’re doing. We’re pretty happy with the results.

Speak up!


But where’s the dialogue?

In real life people are bitterly critical of global companies: they fear they are only interested in making money.

The voice of a critical stakeholder would help people to believe the company was in touch with their worries. It could also help companies understand their role better. Companies that enter into public dialogue with critics can rapidly identify and then challenge unrealistic public expectations.

The recent report produced in partnership by Unilever and Oxfam (but formally written up by a third party) on the impacts of Unilever Indonesia’s operations on poverty reduction is an impressive example of dialogue in action.

Neither party papered over the cracks of their disputes in the text of the report and both published frank and open learnings in the conclusion.

Unilever expressed no reluctance to “probe deep-seated preconceptions on both sides, and explore sometimes painful perceptions of the reality of business operations”.

They were able to use the opportunity to communicate to a wider audience about the realities of business and the particular challenges of doing business in a developing country.

As Unilever’s group chief executive, Patrick Cescau, puts it: “Not unexpectedly, it has not always been possible to reach agreement; where this is the case, the different viewpoints are stated. Nor did we believe that we needed to articulate a defence of all aspects of our business activity. This report offers a joint study of the complex reality of some key aspects of local business operations in a developing country.”

Not business


How refreshing to hear Oxfam say in the conclusions: “We have learned from Unilever that in many cases business decisions rarely amount to a strictly profit-based calculation. The notion that ‘the business of business is business’ is outdated.”

From a company perspective, you can’t buy that sort of endorsement; it only comes through dialogue, eroding the misconceptions of business activities.

This is not the sort of tone that you expect from corporate reports – open, honest and balanced. The Unilever/Oxfam partnership offers us a better and more credible language in which to communicate the challenges of corporate responsibility.

It is now up to the leaders of companies to learn how to speak it without too much prompting from their CSR departments.

Mark Goyder is director of Tomorrow’s Company, which has launched a call for evidence as part of the inquiry into Tomorrow’s Global Company.

mark@tomorrowscompany.com
www.tomorrowscompany.com/global

Write to Mark Goyder at mark@tomorrowscompany.com,
or write to the Editor at
editor@ethicalcorp.com.

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China's acid rain problems could benefit Canada

GLOBE-Net, 8 September 2006 - Over half of China's cities experienced acid rain in the last year, and one-third of the country's land mass was exposed to the toxic precipitation, reports China's state media, quoting government reports. This could provide new international business opportunities for Canadian companies. As well, the risks of increased acid rain in Canada could spur growth in the domestic market for pollution control technologies.

A Chinese government official said that the problem posed a “major threat to food and soil safety”, as pollution levels in the country continue to rise despite state commitments to improve environmental conditions.

China discharged more 25.49 million tons of sulphur dioxides in 2005, more than any other country, reported the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) earlier this month. More than eighty percent of that came from industrial sources, and discharges were 27 percent higher than in 2000 said the agency. SEPA found that 51.3 percent of the 696 cities and counties across the country that monitor for acid rain had experienced the problem in 2006.

Each ton of emissions could be costing the country around US $2500 in economic activity, so the country could be suffering a total loss of over US $60 billion dollars annually, estimates SEPA. The majority of emissions come from coal-fired power plants, which provide 70 percent of the country's power. China is the world's top consumer of coal, accounting for 35 percent of global demand in 2004.

Coal plants produce large amounts of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, all of which contribute to smog formation and can cause health and environmental problems.

However, modern pollution controls and advanced combustion techniques can dramatically reduce these emissions. Many of China's coal plants do not have proper technology installed, so the government has promoted desulphurization projects for thermal power plants.

By the end of the country's current Five Year Plan in 2010, the government has set a mandatory target of reducing sulphur dioxide emissions by ten percent compared to 2005 levels, although a similar goal for the previous Five Year Plan failed to achieve its targets.

At the end of 2005, 142 desulphurization projects were either completed or in progress at major thermal power plants representing approximately 50 million kilowatts of capacity, compared to only 5 million kilowatts of ‘desulphurized' facilities in 2000.

SEPA has signed agreements with China's six largest electric power companies, responsible for more than 60 percent of the country's sulphur dioxide releases, to reduce emissions to set levels.

Desulphurization and pollution control equipment needed

The good news for China is that sulphur dioxide emissions and acid rain problems can be improved through the application of modern technology. This could lead to increased opportunities for Canadian technology and service providers.

International Trade Canada estimates that the Chinese flue gas desulphurization (FGD) market is expected to exceed $7 billion over the next five years. The Chinese government recognizes the need for foreign technologies and strongly encourages local companies to enter into joint ventures with foreign enterprises.

The Asian Development Bank has funded the Acid Rain Control and Environmental Improvement Project for the People's Republic of China, and has recently issued tenders for energy equipment .

Acid rain became a prominent issue in North America during the 1980s, when industrial pollution from the Eastern provinces and states led to severe environmental degradation. The countries signed the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement (AQA), and between 1980 and 2001, Canada and the U.S. reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 48 per cent and 39 per cent respectively. Nitrogen oxides were similarly slashed..

Canada plans to continue to combat acid rain, which still poses an ecological risk, through the development of the Canada-Wide Acid Rain Strategy for Post-2000. Further actions could include measures to ensure that new facilities are constructed with pollution prevention technology, funding for science and monitoring programs, development of further regulatory controls on acidifying emissions, and reporting on sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

The two countries are also contemplating entering a regional ‘cap-and-trade' plan for SO2 and NOx emissions. This system could act as a driver in growing Canada's environmental technology industry, especially in air pollution and monitoring systems, though its potential effects are still unclear. Currently, Canada is especially strong in environmental consulting and engineering. Canada's capability in the air emissions control and monitoring technology sector is gaining strength. Western Canada could face increased risk from acid rain due to intensive energy and industrial development in Alberta and British Columbia, warned federal documents prepared for Minister of the Environment Rona Ambrose. Technologies have helped to keep the sulphur dioxide emissions per barrel of oil output from Alberta's oil sands relatively steady in recent years, but discharges are expected to increase as production in the area could triple in the next decade. This could put the region at risk of increased acidification, and a new federal clean air strategy is likely to include measures to limit sulphur dioxide releases. Opportunities for technologies and services to reduce emissions are likely to be in demand in the Alberta region and elsewhere.

China's rapid economic growth has made it one of the world's largest polluters, which in turn has heightened that country's demand for new technologies and practical solutions for its worsening environmental problems.

This has resulted in potentially profitable business opportunities for Canadian environmental companies. Richmond B.C.'s Richway Environmental Technologies Inc. and North Vancouver's International Bio Recovery Corp. were profiled in a Vancouver Sun article on Canadian companies that are spinning fortunes from China's filth.

Richway designs and builds facilities in China that convert solid waste into electricity, and International Bio Recovery Corp's patented technology uses bacteria to digest organic waste from food, agricultural production, livestock farming and municipal sewage sludge into high-quality, environmentally-friendly fertilizer. As noted in the Vancouver Sun article, Richway's flagship project in the city of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, takes in 300 tonnes of municipal waste a day, and converts it to six megawatts of electricity. By North American standards, six megawatts would be enough to provide power for approximately 4,800 homes.

International Bio Recovery Corp. sold the master rights to its organic waste management technology in China to Shanghai-based CFO Holdings Corp. in 2002. CFO began operating its first plant using IBR technology in Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, last year and while market expansion in China will depend on CFO, IBR expects its technology could be used to develop additional plants throughout the country.

Trade Team Canada Environment will be leading a trade mission to China in October to promote Canada's air pollution control, solid waste and waste water management firms. This will be Canada's fourth environmental trade mission to the country which will branch out to China's second-tier cities beyond Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, which have populations numbering in the millions.

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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Anti-hero: Within a decade, China will emit more greenhouse gases than any other country


Anti-hero

Sep 7th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Within a decade, China will emit more greenhouse gases than any other country

EyevineMurky business

THE few remaining cyclists in Beijing risk death one way or another. If the city's 4m cars, jammed onto the multiplying ringroads and flyovers, do not get them, the polluted air will. It is so thick that you cannot see the sun, even on a sunny day.

At present, rich countries emit more CO2 than developing countries do. But developing countries as a whole will overtake rich countries shortly; and China, the most populous of the emerging economies, will become the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter in 2015.

Every year China builds 60 gigawatts of power-generation capacity, almost as much as Britain's entire existing capacity. Four-fifths of Chinese power is generated by coal, the dirtiest source of electricity. China currently uses 40% of the world's coal—more than America, Europe and Japan put together.

Pollution has not been a priority for the Chinese government. “All departments and ministries are oriented towards GDP. Some comprehensive economic departments should be in charge of planning, but all they want to do is authorise projects. Local leaders are the same. So the Environmental Protection Agency is pretty weak,” according to Pan Yue, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Agency.

But the government is becoming increasingly concerned about the problems that pollution brings, such as sickness from filthy air and arid soil from acid rain, which has made it keen to boost the use of renewables and increase energy efficiency. It is building huge wind farms on its coastline and even runs some hydrogen-fuelled buses in Beijing. Last year it pushed up fuel-efficiency standards for cars sold in China, and by 2008 it will raise them above federal American levels. The 11th five-year plan, published earlier this year, requires the economy to become 20% more energy-efficient by 2010.

Between 1980 and 2000 China's GDP quadrupled, whereas energy consumption only doubled. The Chinese government intends to repeat that trick. But decentralisation, deregulation and a huge infrastructure boom have boosted demand for power, and China's economy is now becoming more, not less, energy-intensive. The energy elasticity of GDP (the relationship between changes in energy consumption and changes in GDP) rose from 0.5 in 2000 to 1.5 in 2004. “The government has lost control of industry,” says Jiang Lin of America's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Moreover, the goals of reducing pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change sometimes conflict. The harmful pollutants released into the air by coal-fired electricity generation, such as sulphur, also dampen the greenhouse effect. Take them out and your people's health will improve, but the world will get warmer, as the West found in the second half of the 20th century. China, too, seems likely to choose cleaner air.

Note created Sep 7, 2006
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Head of US drugs giant sacked over deal to block cheap rival


Head of US drugs giant sacked over deal to block cheap rival
By Stephen Foley in New York
Published: 13 September 2006

Bristol-Myers Squibb, the US pharmaceuticals giant, has sacked its chief executive and top lawyer in the wake of a botched deal to block the launch of a copycat version of its best-selling drug, Plavix.

The departure of Peter Dolan after five years as chief executive comes less than two months after the FBI raided his office looking for evidence of anti-competitive collusion.

BMS is already facing prosecution over a $2.5bn (£1.33bn) accounting fraud, but the US attorney for New Jersey, Christopher Christie, agreed to drop the charges if it stays out of trouble for two years.

The independent ombudsman appointed to monitor BMS's behaviour during that time, the former federal judge Frederick Lacey, demanded Mr Dolan and the general counsel, Richard Willard, be fired over the Plavix debacle. Mr Christie also attended parts of the two-day board meeting that decided their fate.

James Cornelius, former finance boss of Eli Lilly and a non-executive at BMS since last year, was appointed interim chief executive.

Mr Dolan and Mr Willard are accused of suggesting a secret side deal over Plavix to Barry Sherman, chief executive of Apotex, the Canadian firm planning to launch a copycat version of Plavix. The drug was vital to BMS because it had sales of almost $13m a day and growing. Apotex says the patents protecting Plavix are invalid.

An earlier deal between the two sides, which would have kept generic Plavix off the market for the rest of the decade, was vetoed for being anti-competitive.

Dr Sherman had negotiated concessions allowing him to flood the market with his cut-price version if competition authorities blocked the deal. That happened last month, and an injunction granted to BMS came too late to prevent a profits warning.

The fraudulent scheme to inflate earnings by oversupplying wholesalers, which had begun in 1999, continued on Mr Dolan's watch until regulators became involved in 2002. BMS had to restate $2.5bn of revenue, pay $450m in fines and settle shareholder lawsuits. The finance chief was among the executives sacked, while Mr Dolan was forced to relinquish the chairmanship. In 2002, regulators refused to approve the launch of the cancer drug Erbitux, which Mr Dolan had agreed to buy from the biotech ImClone for up to $2bn. It took until 2004 to get the drug on the market.

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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Europe maintains grip on sustainability index

ENDS Europe Daily, 8 September 2006- European companies are the most sustainable in 13 out of 18 major economic sectors according to the latest edition of the Dow Jones global sustainability index, which ranks the world's large companies. The result matches the region's performance last year.

The global sustainability index and an accompanying European index are issued annually by Dow Jones in partnership with Sam Indexes and Stoxx. A North American index was added in September 2005. Dow Jones says total assets covered by the indices grew by about a third in the last year to reach nearly €4bn.

The latest global index also shows that all but five of the leading companies in the 18 market sectors have retained their top ranking, many for the third year running. These include Norwegian firm Statoil for oil and gas, British company BT for telecommunications, and Dutch concern DSM for chemicals. Non-European firms Intel and 3M lead in technology and industrial goods and services respectively.

Among the changes, Veolia Environment of France has displaced Severn Trent of the UK in utilities and Norsk Hydro of Norway has replaced Canadian firm Alcan in the basic resources sector.

As in previous years, tens of companies have also either joined or been deleted from both the global and European lists. With five net additions, Spain made the biggest contribution to the global index. The UK added most to the European index with nine companies joining and only two leaving.

In calculating its 2006 sustainability indices, Dow Jones increased the weight of industry-specific assessment criteria from 40 per cent to 50 per cent. This reflects a growing trend for companies to focus on sustainability risks and opportunities specific to their sector.

The 2006 assessment also reveals that climate change is attracting increased attention in the corporate world, with top energy firms doing climate change impact assessments and leading financial institutions launching products and services that go beyond emissions trading.

DJSI Takes Holistic Approach to Assessing and Promoting Corporate Sustainability: DJSI added 46 companies to its world index and deleted 36


DJSI Takes Holistic Approach to Assessing and Promoting Corporate Sustainability

SocialFunds.com, 11 September 2006 - Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes assesses overall sustainability performance, driving constant improvement through the competitiveness to attain best-in-class status.

Last week, leading global socially responsible (SRI) index providers Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes ( DJSI ) announced index changes resulting from its annual review. DJSI added 46 companies to its world index and deleted 36, added 26 to the STOXX pan-European index and removed 16, and added 17 to its newest index covering North America, eliminating 13. While some SRI indexes announce changes resulting from technical shifts, such as mergers or acquisitions, all DJSI changes announced are due to sustainability issues. However, DJSI's structure does not lend itself to identifying which specific sustainability criteria prompted the change, but rather takes a more holistic approach.

"We don't identify specific reasons for deletions because of the nature of the research process--there are no single criteria that can lead to a deletion," said Alex Barkawi, managing director of Sustainable Asset Management ( SAM ) Indexes, which manages the DJSI series. "A deletion is the result of a company's total score leading to its ranking being below the threshold for companies we take in."

"Since the total score is the sum of the entire set of criteria we look at, it's not possible to point to a single or several criteria and say, 'These were the reasons,' because a company may score very low on a single criterion but be so good on other issues that eventually its total score positions it among the leaders," Mr. Barkawi told SocialFunds.com.

Additions to the DJSI World Index included Amgen, Cisco, Dow, Kraft, ServiceMaster, and Walt Disney. Some of these names may surprise social investors, given the significant problems associated with them--such as Cisco impinging Internet freedom in China, Dow ducking accountability for the Bhopal disaster, ServiceMaster's ChemLawn for its toxic herbicides and pesticides. However, Mr. Barkawi contends that their positive actions counterbalance their negative impacts.

"These types of issues flow into the assessment and are reflected in the criteria which they affect, for instance, stakeholder relations, and they would therefore weigh negatively on the total score," explained Mr. Barkawi. "However, if a company does a lot of things right in other dimensions, it may still be top of its industry."

Interestingly, companies deleted from one DJSI index are not automatically deleted from other indexes in the family, due to the different sizes of the universes and hence the number of companies competing for best-in-class status. For example, Kodak, Ford, Goldman Sachs, and Whole Foods were booted from the DJSI World Index, but not the DJSI North American Index.

"A company might be among the top within its industry regionally, but may not reach that threshold on a global level," Mr. Barkawi pointed out.

SAM includes the top 10 percent of sustainability performers from the biggest 2,500 companies in the global index, and the top 20 percent from the largest 600 companies in the North American index. So while companies like Goldman Sachs (which introduced a comprehensive environmental policy within the year) and Whole Foods (a perennial SRI favorite despite some governance problems this year) fared well compared to their regional peers, they did not hold their own on the global level.

"Most of the companies that get deleted have actually not scored worse compared to last year--they just have not progressed as fast as their peers," said Mr. Barkawi. "The companies compete amongst each other and raise the bar themselves."

SAM has traditionally provided companies it assesses free feedback reports showing companies' scores on all the different criteria and the industry average for particular criteria, as well as the best score a company in this industry has achieved. Due to company requests for more in-depth information to help determine areas for improvements to move ahead on sustainability, SAM has introduced a fee-based
benchmarking service to cover the expense of providing this additional information.

Institutional Shareholder Services (
ISS ), a leading proxy advisory firm (that is now on the auction block), has endured strong criticism for providing consulting services to the companies it evaluates to help them perform better, creating the perception of a "pay-for-ranking" system. DJSI avoids this through independent verification of its sustainability scoring.

"For each annual review,
PricewaterhouseCoopers comes into the office and takes a random sample of companies we assessed, and they go through the entire assessment again based on the methodology we have defined, and they eventually come up with an average error margin and say, 'Here's company A, you've given them a score of X, but they should have gotten a score of Y,'" Mr. Barkawi said. "Through that, we have installed a mechanism that is very capable of getting a third-party assurance that we actually follow the methodology as we have defined it."

Note created Sep 15, 2006
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EU pollution inventory draws in diffuse sources

EU pollution inventory draws in diffuse sources

(Embedded image moved to file: pic26889.jpg)

ENDS Europe Daily, 18 September 2006- A first official EU inventory
of pollution from diffuse sources such as road transport has
confirmed the large scale of the problem. The European commission
called the inventory an important step towards launching a full EU
pollutant release and transfer register (PRTR) in 2009.

Until now, detailed EU-wide emissions data has been compiled only for
large industrial "point" sources in the European polluting emissions
register (Eper). The new diffuse pollution inventory pulls together
available data on air and water emissions from nine small and
non-industrial sectors, mainly for the year 2003.

Commenting on the inventory, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas
said that it would help EU policy makers "develop better targeted and
more effective policies for fighting pollution".

The inventory shows that emissions of heavy metals from diffuse
sources tend to be higher than those from major installations. For
example, EU-15 annual emissions of copper from road transport between
2001 and 2003 were 260 tonnes, twice as much as for major
installations, it said.

Of all sectors, road transport, domestic heating and agriculture are
the largest emitters of pollutants and greenhouse gases. For most of
the 25 pollutants covered, these sectors account for more than 90% of
all emissions.

Almost all emissions of ammonia and other chemicals like
hexachlorobenzene (HCB) come from agriculture. The road transport
sector is responsible for half carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) and two
thirds of nitrogen oxides (NOx). A significant proportion of CO2 is
also emitted by domestic heating. This sector is also largely
responsible for emissions of mercury, and dioxins and furans.

The other sectors covered are shipping, aviation, railways, military
activities, gas distribution, roofing and road paving with asphalt,
and solvent use.

The data show that Germany produces most CO2 and methane from diffuse
sources, followed by France, the UK and Italy. The UK has by far the
largest diffuse emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), followed by
Poland and the Netherlands. Diffuse emissions of heavy metals such as
lead are mainly concentrated in Poland, Cyprus, France and Spain.

Regarding emissions to water, annual releases of nitrogen and
phosphorus into the sea are the highest in the North Sea with 15kg/ha
and 0.9kg/ha respectively, while releases into large river basins can
be significantly higher in regions with intensive agriculture.

Note created Sep 21, 2006
EU pollution inventory draws in diffuse sources - www.wbcsd.org/...

Industry says EU policies too green to foster innovation


Industry says EU policies too green to foster innovation

(Embedded image moved to file: pic29069.gif)EurActiv.com, 18
September 2006 - EU rules are failing to promote innovation and
entrepreneurship because law-makers have been ignoring industry's
?unpopular' interests, said participants in a workshop organised by
the Alliance for a Competitive European Industry.

Background

One year after the Commission presented its new integrated industrial
policy aimed at creating the conditions for manufacturing to thrive,
representatives of Europe's major industry associations got together
in a workshop moderated by EurActiv's editor-in-chief Willy De Backer
to see how these commitments have been implemented and what remains
to be done.

The October 2005 industrial policy comprised seven new initiatives -
on competitiveness, energy and the environment, on intellectual
property rights, on better regulation, on industrial research and
innovation, on market access, on skills, and on managing structural
change - to contribute to the development of a strong industrial
base.

The Commission also presented, on 13 September 2006, a new strategy
aimed at stimulating innovation.

Issues

The debate focused on three issues:
The need for a renewed focus on industry;
the need for better regulation, and;
the need to clear industry's bad name.

Positions

The Commission's Enterprise and Industry Director-General Heinz
Zourek explained that the 2005 industrial policy is necessary because
there was a realisation that the Lisbon Strategy's focus on creating
a knowledge-based economy had sparked a large growth of sectors such
as cyber-technology and e-commerce, while more traditional sectors
were neglected.

A member of the public, representing the Aluminium industry ,
commented that ?there had been, in Europe, an idea that industry can
be offered away to the developing countries and that we here can live
only on services?. He said he was glad that the Commission was again
focusing its attention on industry, saying we cannot live only on
services. ?I think we can also not live on
?environmental-friendliness',? he added.

Edward G. Krubasik from Siemens AG agreed that there was a ?need to
get back to basics?. He said Europe had built up a large wealth base
thanks to its industries but had then spent too long simply living
off this wealth while concentrating on other issues, such as social
welfare and the environment. These are important, he said, but ?our
wealth base began disintegrating and we started to feel the carpet
being pulled out under our feet?. He said that the way to speed up
economic growth is to foster competition. ?We have to make sure that
every sector is really alive and awake,? he said.

Fabrizio D'Adda, Chairman of UNICE's Industrial Affairs Committee ,
said he believed that better regulation to encourage risk-taking and
innovation was necessary to drive innovation and economic growth,
adding that industry was still awaiting progress in this area from
the Commission's ?Better Regulation? initiative. He added it was "all
very well" carrying out impact assessments, but that ex-post
evaluations were needed to see if regulation was really delivering
what is supposed to. ?If not, you scrap it. This is better
regulation,? he said.

Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of the European Automobile
Manufacturers Association (ACEA) , agreed, saying that the regulatory
framework and competitiveness are linked. ?We are competing with
countries where people work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We do
not want protectionism from the Commission and member states, we want
an environment where we can easily innovate and build up our
competitiveness,? he said.

Hungarian MEP Edit Herczog (PES) responded to this saying that even
the best regulation will not in itself create a good business
framework: ?The European economy is like an iceberg and legislation
is only the tip. If the iceberg is melting away, it is not up to the
tip to save it.? Business must do more to influence politicians
because for the moment, she said, ?environmental groups are the ones
steering the legislative process?. To extend its influence, business
must speak out more so as to be recognised as ?a nicer place?, she
said, because, for the moment, ?being industry-friendly is a suicide
route for a politician?.

Hodac agreed that European law-makers listen more to environment
groups than to industry because this is more popular and asked what
industry must do to make them listen. He also reminded Herczog that:
?If this [being industry-friendly] is political suicide for MEPs,
then it means economic suicide for the European economy.?

Zourek responded by saying that industry can make its case with
reliable information. He said that industry communication on the
REACH regulation on chemicals had been considered to be overly
?aggressive and one-sided?, joking that this was the privilege of
environmental NGOs only. He said the key issue was that industry's
view had been represented only by the chemical industry ? which ?has
a bad name and was viewed as only fighting its own battle?.
Downstream users spoke out far too late, he said, which is why they
failed to influence MEPs. On the other hand, he praised industry's
current stance in the debate on energy, noting that this was a calm
and all-encompassing debate where industry comes across as one of the
overall network of stakeholders. ?Once industry becomes detached from
this network, then it is seen badly,? he said.

In a closing speech given at the workshop, Commission Vice-President
Günter Verheugen agreed that ?the voice of businesses is not always
properly heard and understood at EU level? and agreed that this
affected the success of the reforms that are being implemented. He
encouraged businesses to participate more actively in the
consultation process to ensure that their voice is fully heard.
Links

EU official documents
Commission: Günter Verheugen: The new European Industrial
Policy: From commitment to results (15 September 2006)
Commission: Neelie Kroes: Industrial policy and
competition law & policy (14 September 2006)

Industry federations
The Alliance for a Competitive European Industry: The new
European Industrial Policy: From commitment to results
(15 September 2006)
The Alliance for a Competitive European Industry: Cases
for a Competitive European Industry (15 September 2006)
Note created Sep 21, 2006
Industry says EU policies too green to foster innovation -
www.wbcsd.org/...

Russia cancels permit for Shell's giant Sakhalin-2 fields

Russia cancels permit for Shell's giant Sakhalin-2 fields

(Embedded image moved to file: pic09722.gif)AFP, 18 September 2006 -
Russia cancelled an essential permit Monday for a Shell-led
consortium to develop the huge Sakhalin -2 oil and gas fields, as a
top official warned foreign energy companies may lose their licenses.

The environmental permit withdrawn from British-Dutch Shell is the
latest example of official pressure on foreign investors as the
Kremlin moves to tighten its grip on the country's vast energy
resources.

Sakhalin -2 is the world's biggest privately funded energy project.

"The prosecutor general on Saturday issued an order to cancel... the
approval of the environmental assessment. We are required to fulfill
this order," Rinat Gizatulin, a spokesman for Russia's natural
resources ministry, told AFP.

The decision will halt all work at the 20-billion-dollar
(15.8-billion-euro) Sakhalin -2 project, according to the state
agency on natural resources, which filed suit last week to have the
environmental assessment revoked.

"The company must again provide material for an environmental
assessment by the state," Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev
said at a meeting with Japan's ambassador to Moscow Yasuo Saito, the
ministry said in a statement.

The Sakhalin Energy consortium developing Sakhalin -2 makes enough
profit "to carry out work on the project in observation of basic
environmental requirements," Trutnev said.

Sakhalin Energy, in which Shell holds a 55 percent stake and Japanese
firms Mitsui and Mitsubishi have the remainder, said it was
"confident there are no valid grounds" to cancel its environmental
permit.

"We are confident the (environmental assessment) conclusion does not
violate any applicable law and indeed, has been the basis for
successful execution of the project to date," the consortium said in
a statement.

"We will continue to work with the Russian authorities to resolve the
issue and thereby, maintain confidence of international customers in
Japan, Korea and North America, where Sakhalin gas is contracted for
supply in 2008," it said.

The ministry's move came after weeks of intensifying criticism of
Sakhalin -2, which is located off the northeast tip of Sakhalin
island along Russia's Pacific coast.

Trutnev criticized management of the project last week, saying Russia
could lose 10 billion dollars (7.87 billion euros) of revenue because
of mismanagement.

Shell's troubles also come at a time when the Russian government is
moving aggressively to increase state control over its natural
resources sector, especially oil and gas production.

Earlier Monday, a top official at the natural resources ministry said
foreign company licenses on three energy projects -- ExxonMobil's
Sakhalin -1 project, Shell's Sakhalin -2 and Total's Kharyaga Arctic
oil field -- were at risk.

The ministry's director of government policy Sergei Fyodorov said
that the licenses could be cancelled on the grounds that technical
conditions were not being fulfilled, Interfax reported.

A report by the ministry in May attacked both ExxonMobil and Shell
for inefficiency and cost overruns at Sakhalin -1 and Sakhalin -2,
saying Russian companies should be given majority control of both
projects.

Analysts said that Russia's growing desire for majority control of
all major energy projects was the main motivation behind recent
pressure on foreign companies.

"Everything that is happening around Sakhalin -2 can be interpreted
as the Russian government's desire to have more control over these
projects," said Andrei Gromadin, oil and gas analyst at MDM Bank.

Valery Nesterov, oil and gas analyst at Troika Dialog, called the
stated environmental concerns "a pretext" and said the move could be
"alarming" for other foreign investors.

"It just means that the state continues to tighten its grip over the
oil sector," Nesterov said.

Note created Sep 21, 2006
Russia cancels permit for Shell's giant Sakhalin-2 fields -
www.wbcsd.org/...

Hollywood film threatens to take the shine off Africa's gem trade


Hollywood film threatens to take the shine off Africa's gem trade

· £8m De Beers campaign to counter DiCaprio film
· Bushmen appeal to star for help against industry

Jeevan Vasagar
Wednesday September 20, 2006
The Guardian

(Embedded (Embedded image
image moved moved to file:
to file: pic04106.jpg)
pic05210.gif) Not a public
image the
diamond industry
welcomes ... The
Blood Diamond

The diamond industry has begun a campaign to safeguard its lucrative
Christmas trade from what it fears will be a blitz of negative
publicity resulting from a forthcoming Hollywood film about the trade
in African "conflict diamonds".

De Beers, the world's biggest diamond company, plans to spend £8m on
publicity this autumn, in advance of the release in December of Blood
Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which threatens to make diamonds
as unfashionable as fur.

Article continues(Embedded image moved to file: pic28826.gif)

In the film DiCaprio plays a South African mercenary who goes on a
quest in pursuit of a rare pink diamond through rebel-held territory
in Sierra Leone, a west African country whose civil war was fuelled
by diamond smuggling, and resulted in 75,000 deaths

In real life, DiCaprio has become the poster boy for those who
believe the diamond industry is wrecking lives. The film has inspired
a band of Kalahari Bushmen to advertise in the Hollywood magazine
Variety, attacking the diamond business.

The Bushmen, who claim they have been expelled from ancestral land in
Botswana to make way for diamond mining, appealed for DiCaprio's
support.

In an open letter to the star, they said: "After diamonds were found
on our land we were evicted ... Those diamonds are a curse for us. We
hope you will use your film to let people know that we too are
victims of diamonds and we just want to go home."

In turn, Hollywood has been accused of trivialising the truth about
African diamonds by some in the gemstone trade. Eli Izhakoff,
chairman of industry body the World Diamond Council, said: "This
movie, drawing attention to this subject, is something that happened
years ago, something that was remedied."

The industry has set up a website aimed at countering a backlash from
the film. Diamondfacts.org tells of the benefits the industry has
brought to its workers and enlists the unimpeachable sainthood of
Nelson Mandela, who describes the diamond industry as "vital" to
southern Africa's economy. In Botswana, 25% of jobs are directly or
indirectly linked to diamonds, while in Namibia the diamond trade is
the second biggest employer after the government, the industry says.

The Bushmen are not the only African voices drawn into the debate.
Patrick Mazimhaka, a Rwandan diplomat who is now deputy chairman of
the African Union, wrote in a US newspaper recently that blaming
diamonds for fuelling conflict "misses the fact that plenty of good
can be accomplished with earnings from natural resources. With the
right ingredients ... good governance and careful leadership ...
commodities have been a tremendous force for continental good."

The diamond trade's campaign is meant to safeguard a market worth
£1.2bn in Britain last year. Diamond retailers make a fifth of their
sales at Christmas, when the film is due for its US release. It is
expected to come out in Britain in the New Year. "We don't see [the
film] as damaging so long as it's dealt with in a historical
perspective," Mr Izhakoff said.

The industry claims conflict diamonds now make up less than 1% of
those sold, compared with 4% in the late 1990s, the period in which
the film is set. Conflict diamonds have been virtually eliminated by
the Kimberley Process, a scheme which requires governments to track
rough diamonds from mines to the polished stage, the industry says.

"This system that we've put together is not perfect, but we are
making every effort to make it so," Mr Izhakoff told the Guardian.
"We don't want one stone out there that's a conflict stone."

But not everyone agrees the problem has been solved. After peace
deals ended several African civil wars, the main source of conflict
diamonds is Ivory Coast, where rebels control some mining areas.
According to the pressure group Global Witness, gems smuggled out of
Ivory Coast into Mali are being sold on to international dealers.

Congo-Brazzaville has been prohibited from diamond trading because of
suspicions that it is a hub for smuggling, and though the civil war
is over in its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is
still occasional fighting for control of diamond mines and other
minerals.

Susie Sanders, Global Witness campaigner, said: "We're pushing for
stronger internal controls to make sure that conflict diamonds can't
be smuggled into countries that are [in the] Kimberley Process and
exported. There is lots of cross-border smuggling. The control
systems just aren't strong enough."

Jewellers in London's Hatton Garden diamond district said they had
been approached directly by smugglers offering west African diamonds.
Malcolm Park-Carpenter, manager of Channings jewellers, said: "The
only thing we can do is make sure they're non-conflict through our
sources. We don't buy from Angola or anywhere that it can be turned
into arms.

"Sierra Leone is one of the countries we don't touch. We get people
coming in from there [saying]: 'Do you buy rough diamonds?'. We say:
'Where are they from?' - [they say] 'Sierra Leone', and we say 'Get
out'. We're doing everything we can to make sure we don't end up
funding AK-47s." The shop manager's answers revealed good intentions
but inaccurate knowledge. Angola and Sierra Leone have peace deals
and can legitimately trade in diamonds, but illicitly offered gems
may be conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast.

There is a fear that controversy around the film will provoke a
backlash against all African diamonds, an outcome both the industry
and the campaigners want to avoid. "It would be terrible if the film
led to Sierra Leone being seen as a pariah," said Ms Sanders of
Global Witness. "Quite a few African countries with artisanal mining
have weak control systems. It's [the case] in West Africa and the
Congo.

"What we really hope doesn't happen is that people say 'I'm not going
to buy African diamonds'. What we want to do is protect the
legitimate trade from Africa."

FAQ

How much is the business worth?

Retail diamond sales totalled £1.2bn in the UK last year, the
industry says. Sales have increased gradually in recent years after a
spike in 2001 when they rose by 25%, attributed to a post-9/11 flurry
of engagements.

What are conflict diamonds?

Diamonds extracted by rebel groups, or in defiance of security
council resolutions, and sold to pay for weapons and ammunition. It
is said that in the 1990s the Angolan rebel group Unita generated
£2bn over six years mainly from illegal gems. Ivory Coast is the main
source remaining of conflict diamonds after peace deals ended wars
elsewhere in Africa. Sanctions on diamond exports from Liberia are
likely to be lifted soon. The civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s
drew international attention to the problem.

What is being done about it?

In 2003, countries signed up to the Kimberley Process, a
certification scheme meant to stop diamonds being used to fund wars.
A total of 69 states are now members. Governments have to keep
records tracking diamonds from source to their polished form. The
industry says conflict diamonds are now 1% of those sold, down from
4% in the 1990s.

What happens next?

At the next meeting of Kimberley Process members - in Gaborone,
Botswana, in November - campaigners will call for tighter internal
controls. The biggest difficulties occur in developing countries,
where diamonds are dug up from riverbeds by gangs of informal miners.
Local conflicts, porous borders and corrupt officials compound the
problem.

Note created Sep 20, 2006
Guardian Unlimited Film | News | Hollywood film threatens to take the shine
off Africa's gem trade - film.guardian.co.uk/...

WHO Urges DDT for Malaria Control Strategies

WHO Urges DDT for Malaria Control Strategies

(Embedded image moved to file: pic13764.gif)IPS, 15 September 2006 -
In an important policy shift, the World Health Organisation (WHO)
Friday announced that it is urging the use of the pesticide DDT to
control the spread of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that kills
about one million people a year, most of whom are infants and young
children in Africa.

The announcement by the director of the WHO's Global Malaria
Department, Dr. Arata Kochi, stressed that the use of the
controversial pesticide, which was banned in the United States in
1972 due to concerns about its impact on animal and human health,
should be confined to what is called indoor residual spraying.

"We must take a position based on the science and the data," Kochi
told reporters here. "One of the best tools we have against malaria
is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has
approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT."

"Extensive research and testing has... demonstrated that well-managed
indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to
wildlife or to humans," he added.

Some public-interest and health groups, however, immediately
challenged that assessment.

"This approach takes us in exactly the wrong direction," said Dr.
Paul Saoke, director of Physicians for Social Responsibility in
Kenya. "DDT is a short-sighted response with long-term consequences,
and WHO should be helping countries fight malaria with safer and more
effective alternatives."

"Reliance on pesticides, especially DDT, as a silver-bullet solution
for malaria protection is extremely dangerous," according to Jay
Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based
public interest group.

He noted that government agencies both here and in other countries
have classified DDT as an agent that may cause cancer and nerve
damage and disrupt the human and animal endocrine systems.

Indeed, DDT is one of 12 chemicals to be phased out globally under
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs),
substances that are both toxic and persist in the environment -- in
plants, water, and animal tissue -- for many years.

In 2001, the same year that the Convention was concluded, WHO itself
published a plan of action for reducing reliance on DDT to control
malaria in countries where it was used.

Developed during World War II, DDT, the abbreviation for
dicholoro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, was hailed as a "miracle" for its
effectiveness in combating malaria, typhus, and other insect-born
diseases. In 1955, WHO launched a worldwide programme to eradicate
the disease, primarily through the use of the pesticide.

While the effort proved spectacularly successful in reducing
mortality, particularly in parts of Asia and Latin America,
resistance emerged in many mosquito populations over time, reducing
its impact.

At the same time, environmentalists -- notably Rachel Carson, whose
1962 best-selling book, "Silent Spring", about DDT's effects on the
health of birds and their offspring, created a national sensation --
began documenting how DDT entered and persisted in the food chain,
wreaking havoc on animal populations in the wild. Led by Scandinavia,
most industrialised countries had banned DDT by the late 1970s.

While DDT was still being used in many developing countries, global
agencies, including WHO, and foreign-aid donors over the next two
decades promoted alternatives, including pesticides that were
considered safer than DDT, insecticide-treated bed nets, and drugs
designed to prevent or treat malaria.

But progress in reducing the spread of the disease, which infects
some 500 million people a year, has been limited, particularly in
Africa, due to a variety of problems ranging from weakness of the
region's health-care systems to the costs and maintenance of bed nets
and the speed with which the most deadly malaria parasite,
particularly Plasmodium falciparum, develops resistance to drugs.

As a result, the pressure to rehabilitate DDT as a major component of
the effort to curb the disease has been rising steadily in recent
years, particularly given evidence, cited by WHO Friday, that DDT is
the most effective of the pesticides used in indoor residual
spraying, or IRS.

Indoor spraying is the application of long-acting insecticides on the
walls and roofs of houses and animal shelters in order to kill
malaria-carrying mosquitoes that land there. One application may last
as a long as a year.

Fourteen sub-Saharan countries are currently using IRS, and ten of
those, including South Africa, are using DDT, according to WHO. In
addition, the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria,
has endorsed the strategy and is currently financing its use in some
41 countries.

The United States also stands poised to devote increased resources to
IRS. Last year, President George W. Bush announced his President's
Malaria Initiative, a five-year, 1.2-billion-dollar plan to reduce
malaria-caused mortality by 50 percent in 14 sub-Saharan African
countries. The initiative, which is administered by the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID), has earmarked 20 million
dollars for IRS programmes in 2007, up from only one million dollars
last year.

"Under the leadership of President Bush," the U.S. has begun to
support indoor spraying for malaria control in Africa, including
programmes using DDT," said Senator Tom Coburn (Republican of
Oklahoma), who hailed WHO's decision to endorse the use of DDT as
"bold" and "revolutionary". "I hope that these strong new policies on
spraying and DDT from the WHO will encourage more donors to do the
same."

In endorsing the use of DDT, WHO's Kochi stressed that it should be
applied only as recommended and, under no circumstances, used
outdoors or for agricultural purposes, as was done in the United
States before the 1972 ban.

"DDT presents no health risk when used properly indoors," he said,
adding in an appeal to the environmental community, "Help save
African babies as you are helping to save the environment."

That argument, however, is not accepted by many activists. "DDT is
not a harmless chemical," says Kristin Schafer, programme coordinator
for the North American section of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN),
"despite the claims of its aggressive promoters" who, she added,
received support from the pesticide industry.

"While we agree that short-term DDT use may be appropriate in limited
cases, we are very concerned that WHO appears to be bowing to
pressure from these advocates and backtracking from their commitments
to help countries fight malaria without DDT," she said.

She noted that Vietnam reduced malaria deaths by 97 percent and
malaria cases by 59 percent when it switched in 1991 to a DDT-free
malaria control programme based on drug distribution, bed nets, and
local health-education projects.

Note created Sep 21, 2006
WHO Urges DDT for Malaria Control Strategies - www.wbcsd.org/...

Innovation, competitiveness and responsibility - The new frontier of corporate responsibility

Innovation, competitiveness and responsibility - The new frontier of
corporate responsibility

EC Newsdesk
31 Aug 06

Value protection is not a sufficient basis for the corporate
responsibility practices of competitive companies, argues Nigel Roome
There is little denying that current corporate responsibility efforts
are to be applauded and, when genuine, stand as a contribution to
more cohesive and inclusive societies.

They can drive down some of the environmental burdens generated by
producers and help provide enterprises with a licence to operate in
society.

However, current approaches do not seem to offer anything but a
partial and short-term response to the full challenge of sustainable
development.

They might be best characterised as corporate responsibility to
protect the value of the existing assets of the firm.

For example, oil and energy companies can reduce their environmental
burden, while still exploring, transporting and selling oil and
energy products, which ultimately damage the environment through
carbon dioxide release.

Innovate and create value

A more dynamic aspect of competitiveness ? a key dimension of
long-term sustainability and a core component of corporate
responsibility ? is the need to innovate.

Innovation here means new products and services that are adopted by
users and consumers enabling companies to compete by creating and
supplying new markets that replace existing, less sustainable markets
and patterns of production and consumption.

In this sense corporate responsibility takes the form of value
creation, by providing the ground for companies to generate a new
basis for value.

The challenge of innovation for sustainable development is that it is
not an easy process. It requires products and services based on new
technologies, often embedded in new business models, and altered
social institutions and patterns of use.

To create these technologies and to support their embedding in
society and institutions, companies need to undertake co-operative
action with other producers, with consumers and other stakeholders in
order to ensure that those innovations are more responsible than past
ones and as a way to promote their rapid adoption.

So far, corporate responsibility has focused more on value protection
than on value creation through this risky and complex process of
joint innovation.

And while value protection might be marshalled internally through
public affairs, the move toward innovation touches the very core of
the business venture and its managerial capabilities and
technologies.

Corporate responsibility as value creation through innovation is
truly strategic; it embraces business strategy and R&D scientists and
engineers in their daily work, as well as influencing the flow and
direction of investment and the core managerial skills of the
company.

External stakeholders might well be brought to the centre of the
innovation process through joint problem finding before solutions are
then sought and tested with those or other stakeholders.

In this way, corporate responsibility, as innovation, turns the
business inside out. No longer taking technologies and seeking
applications that might provide for market needs but starting with
social and environmental needs (impressed on the company through
stakeholder engagement) and seeking to harness or develop
technologies, products, services and business models that provide for
these.

Getting the balance

In practice the distinction between corporate responsibility as value
protection and corporate responsibility as value creation is not so
clear cut. For example, value protection often involves the adoption
of innovative approaches.

But the message is clear that value protection is not a sufficient
basis for the corporate responsibility practices of competitive
companies. At the same time what is required is a corporate
responsibility practice based on a blend of value protection and
value creation activities.

The critical issue is found in the recognition that value protection
tends to be dominated by forms of managerial control, while corporate
responsibility as value creation is focused on processes that are
creative and go to the core of business.

Consequently, leading companies and their managers will have to rise
to the challenge of linking these two dimensions of corporate
responsibility, combining systems and structures for control with
those of creativity.

Nigel Roome is Daniel Janssen chair of corporate social
responsibility at Solvay Business School, Free University Brussels,
and chair of sustainable enterprise and transformation at Erasmus
University Rotterdam.

nroome@ulb.ac.be

This series of articles is produced in association with EABIS, the
European Academy of Business in Society, www.eabis.org
Note created Sep 19, 2006
Ethical Corporation: By Invitation - Innovation, competitiveness and
responsibility - The new fronti - www.ethicalcorp.com/...

Business and human rights - gaining critical mass?

Business and human rights - gaining critical mass?

Lisa Roner, North
America Editor
18 Sep 06

Alcan, the Canadian-based materials company, has joined the Business
Leaders Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR).
The group, which launched in 2003 and now includes 11 member
companies, says it aims to find practical ways of applying the
aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within a
business context and inspiring other businesses to do likewise.

Alcan, widely known as a leader on social responsibility issues in
Canada, says its membership in BLIHR is a demonstration of its
commitment to ?the heart of its success: its people.?

The UN Global Compact, of which Alan is also a member, has praised
the company for its leadership in joining the BLIHR.

The BLIHR is credited by many for playing a vital role in defusing
the polarised debate between business groups and civil society on the
Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other
Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights adopted by the UN in
2003.

The move by Alcan to join the BLIIHR is just the kind of commitment
Joe Clark, former Canadian Prime Minister and veteran of the House of
Commons, called on Canadian business to make at the Canadian Business
for Social Responsibility conference on human rights last fall in
Toronto.

Article continues below this advertisement:
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But while some human rights advocates say the BLIHR offers a valuable
forum for those pursuing a human rights agenda to share experiences,
others say that the group could benefit by expanding into regions
beyond Europe and North America.

Useful link
www.cbsr.ca
Note created Sep 19, 2006
Ethical Corporation: North America - Business and human rights - gaining
critical mass? - www.ethicalcorp.com/...

World Bank policy chiefs urge caution on anti-graft campaign

World Bank policy chiefs urge caution on anti-graft campaign

(Embedded image moved to file: pic12728.gif)AFP, 18 September 2006 -
World Bank policymakers called Monday for a cautious approach to
combatting corruption and promoting good governance to ensure that
the Bank stays focused on fighting poverty in developing countries.

"If we are to reach the poor, we must find ways of providing support
for development in challenging environments," South African Finance
Minister Trevor Manuel told a meeting of the World Bank Development
Committee. "The Bank's new enhanced framework on governance and
anti-corruption should not compromise the Bank's core mission of
poverty reduction."

The committee's one-day session here was likely to be dominated by
discussion of an aggressive anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

While no one in the Bank opposes the initiative in principle, several
members, notably Britain, France and Germany, are wary about
attaching restrictive conditions to development assistance.

Wolfowitz's initiative would link Bank financial aid to commitments
by beneficiary countries to good governance, such as transparency in
public procurement, and anti-corruption measures.

He insists his aim "is not to find a reason to cut back on lending"
to poor countries, which is up nine percent this year to 9.5 billion
dollars. "I believe that good governance policies and practice cannot
be ends unto themselves," he told the committee Monday.

"Rather they are means to achieve better development results ... If
we waste our assistance on projects or institutions where money is
not used properly, it comes at the expense of many other countries or
ministries or organizations that have demonstrated (the) need and
capability to use more than what is available to them."

But the new Bank stance, warned Indian Finance Minister P.
Chidambaram, carries with it a risk "of governance becoming a
conditionality for development.

"Development cannot wait for improved governance and a
corruption-free world. Both must go hand in hand."

Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardene stressed
that the Bank's assessment of a recipient country's commitment to
good governance "should be made on the basis of clear, transparent
and objective criteria, not on the basis of impressions."

French Finance Minister Thierry Breton also warned the Bank against
abandoning a country entirely because of evidence of corruption. "The
temptation to withdraw, even partially, is not the right way to
address corruption issues," he maintained.

Several members of the committee insisted that recipient countries
themselves be involved in drafting anti-corruption schemes
appropriate to their own circumstances.

"A key lesson of the past 60 years in the Bank is that development
cannot be done to a country, it must be done by a country," said
Brazilian Central Bank President Henrique de Campos Meirelles.

Chinese Finance Minister Jin Renqing urged the World Bank to pay
attention to "leading by example."

"As the largest global development institition, the Bank should
improve its own governance, strengthen the voice of developing
countries, increase its effectiveness and promote reform of global
governance," he said.

The Development Committee, which sets the broad policy outlines for
the World Bank, was meeting here Monday ahead of plenary sessions
Tuesday and Wednesday of the full membership of both the Bank and the
International Monetary Fund.

Note created Sep 21, 2006
World Bank policy chiefs urge caution on anti-graft campaign -
www.wbcsd.org/...

The $31.5 Trillion Question: Is Your Company Prepared for Climate Change?

The $31.5 Trillion Question: Is Your Company Prepared for Climate Change?
Source: GreenBiz.com

NEW YORK and LONDON, Sept. 18, 2006 - Climate change has become a
major concern among leading US financial institutions and companies,
according to a new report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a
coalition of global investors with more than $31.5 trillion in
assets.

The $31.5 trillion in assets behind CDP4 represents an increase of
over $10 trillion (50%) from the $21 trillion behind CDP3 in 2005.
Much of the increase is the result of US financial giants AIG,
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley joining Merrill Lynch, and other US
institutional investors, to become CDP signatories.

"The findings of CDP4 confirm that awareness of the risks and
opportunities posed by climate change has risen dramatically among
investors and the companies they own," says James Cameron, Chairman
of the CDP. "But awareness alone will not drive the changes in
investment and corporate strategy needed if disastrous climate change
is to be avoided, for that investors will have to put the CDP data to
work."

On behalf of its 225 signatory investors, CDP on February 1, 2006,
requested information on corporate risks and opportunities associated
with climate change from more than 2,000 companies globally including
the world's 500 largest publicly-owned companies (FT500). The
institutional investors represented by CDP will receive the
companies' answers and CDP's fourth annual report (CDP4) on the FT500
companies' responses written by consultancy Innovest and released
this morning at the New York headquarters of Merrill Lynch (a
founding signatory to CDP) and on the CDP Web site.

Among CDP4 report's key findings:

Disclosure Trends

CDP4 generates highest-ever response rate, with 72%, or 360 of the
FT500
companies responding, up from 47% of the companies that responded
when CDP first surveyed the FT500 in 2003.

CDP4 sees a dramatic increase in the response rate from US companies,
with 58% answering the questions, up from 42% in 2005. But many US
companies continue to lag.

US companies responding for the first time to CDP's request for
information include American Express, Boeing, Home Depot, Disney and
Wal-Mart.

US companies appearing in the CDP4's Climate Leadership Index, which
identifies best in class responses, include Chevron, Citigroup, Ford,
FPL Group, GE and Marsh and McLennan.

87% of responding companies indicated climate change represented
"commercial risks and/or opportunities."

Action to reduce emissions trails awareness of the issue. Less than
half
(48%) of companies that consider climate change to present commercial
risks and/or opportunities to their business have implemented a
greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program.

Financial Implications

GHG regulation creates winners and losers. The best positioned
company in the Innovest GHG regulatory model could have windfall
revenues yielding $298 million or 10.6% of 2005 earnings (EBITDA).
The worst could lose 25% of its EBITDA due to regulatory compliance
costs.

GHG reduction less costly than expected. At a fixed marginal
abatement cost of $25 per tonne, many companies could reduce their
"business as usual" 2012 emissions to 10% below 2005 levels for less
than 1% of their reported 2005 earnings.

Clean energy grows up. In North America "clean tech" has become the
fifth largest venture capital investment category, trailing only
Biotechnology, Software, Medical and Telecommunications. It is
estimated
that the clean energy market will grow from $39.9 billion currently
to $167.2 billion by 2015.

Investors taking action on climate change. Numerous financial
institutions, including AIG, Allianz and Goldman Sachs have released
dedicated climate change policies in the past 12 months. Moreover,
Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley among
others have published equity research reports analyzing the financial
performance of the carbon markets.
Note created Sep 20, 2006
ClimateBiz - Article - The $31.5 Trillion Question: Is Your Company
Prepared for Climate Change? - www.climatebiz.com/...

Dow Forms 'Water Solutions' Business

Dow Forms 'Water Solutions' Business
Source: GreenBiz.com
MIDLAND, Mich., Sept. 11, 2006 - Dow Chemical says it will launch a
business unit comprised of brands and technologies designed to
advance the science of desalination, water purification, contaminant
removal and water recycling.

The new business unit, Dow Water Solutions, will focus on meeting the
needs of the company's water industry customers by leveraging the
capabilities and technologies within its various businesses.

"This move underscores Dow's commitment to strengthen its Performance
business portfolio by prioritizing marketing and application
development activities that support high-value, end-use
applications," says Andrew Liveris, Dow's chairman and chief
executive officer. "Dow Water Solutions will provide a range of
competitive water treatment products that allow our customers to
stimulate and capture industry growth, while continuing to improve
access to higher quality water supplies that are more affordable and
sustainable for communities and industries worldwide."

Part of Dow's strategy is to focus on developing more
technology-driven, market facing businesses to accelerate a portfolio
shift to Performance businesses, driving higher growth and more
consistent profitability for the company. The new framework for Dow
Water Solutions also further solidifies Dow's commitment to provide
pure water for both industrial and drinking water applications
globally as part of Dow's Sustainability Goals for 2015, announced in
May 2006.

"Core to our pursuit of market facing businesses, we will leverage
our intimate knowledge of the water industry value chain to work with
cities, countries and customers everywhere to apply our best thinking
and technology in response to the world's growing needs for clean
water," said Romeo Kreinberg, Dow's executive vice president,
Performance Plastics and Chemicals portfolio. "Dow is dedicated to
this business and to the customers and consumers who will benefit
from our expansion into this area."

With revenues of approximately $350 million, Dow Water Solutions is a
performance business unit that maintains five production facilities
globally to manufacture, market and sell reverse osmosis membranes,
ion exchange resins, ultrafiltration, and electrodeionization
products and other technologies. With over 1,000 employees worldwide,
the business is well-positioned to capture much of the industry
growth of water and non-water treatment and separations solutions.

"Over the years, we have developed and acquired a selective portfolio
of complementary components that are critical to the functionality of
water purification systems," said Ian Barbour, general manager, Dow
Water Solutions. "Through our technology leadership and expertise in
component manufacturing, we are building a leading portfolio of key
technologies necessary to address target market needs."

Dow recently expanded its portfolio with three new component
technologies, namely Ultrafiltration (UF), Electrodeionization (EDI),
and Membrane Bio-Reactors (MBR), through the acquisition of Zhejiang
Omex Environmental Engineering Co., Ltd. in July 2006. These
technologies will be included in the Dow Water Solutions portfolio,
along with existing product offerings in reverse osmosis and ion
exchange.

Both UF and MBR are critical to water re-use applications and UF
enables the water treatment providers to meet more stringent water
quality standards. Dow is already an established leader in reverse
osmosis/nanofiltration (RO/NF) membranes and ion exchange resins.

Through development and optimization of these technologies, Dow will
offer solutions for specific water purification needs, including
seawater desalination, water re-use and small community drinking
water systems.

"By offering components as stand-alone or in combination, we can
provide our OEMs with additional value that they could not achieve on
their own. We have found that these complementary processes enable
production of the highest quality water at the lowest attainable
cost," said Barbour.

Note created Sep 20, 2006
GreenBiz News | Dow Forms 'Water Solutions' Business - www.greenbiz.com/...

U.S. CEOs Overwhelmingly Concerned about Climate

U.S. CEOs Overwhelmingly Concerned about Climate
Source: GreenBiz.com

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 6, 2006 - Nearly two in three Chief Executive
Officers of American small and medium-sized businesses expressed
concern about the prospects of global warming, according to the
latest Vistage Confidence Index, a quarterly measure of economic,
market and industry trends.

Sixty-four percent of the nearly 2,000 CEOs responding to the survey
were very concerned or moderately concerned about global warming,
while 36 percent were not concerned. The findings come amidst
heightened efforts by California and other states to enact stricter
regulations on greenhouse emissions, a move that has triggered
concerns from the business community regarding impact to energy
prices and jobs.

"The issue of global warming is clearly a concern among American
executives," said Dan Barnett, Chief Operating Officer of Vistage
International, the world's largest CEO membership organization. "The
question is whether that concern will translate to the willingness to
support legislation and regulatory requirements that impact their
businesses."

Only seven percent of CEOs cited rising energy costs as the most
important issue facing their business. Nearly 70 percent said that
recent summer heat waves have had no impact on their business,
although 25 percent reported a minor negative impact, presumably in
the form of higher energy bills.

U.S. small and mid-sized businesses represent the most vital
component of the nation's economy. This sector creates 75 percent of
all new jobs and generates 50 percent of all national revenue. The
opinions of these business leaders provide a clear snapshot of
current economic, market, and industry trends and demonstrate their
plans for growth over the next 12 months. These insights provide a
leading indicator for employment, capital expenditure, sales and
revenue trends.

The Q3 2006 Vistage Confidence Index is a compilation of responses
from 1,939 CEOs of small- to mid-sized companies, surveyed August
16-24, with a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points. The Vistage
Confidence Index is the only comprehensive report of their opinions
and projections.
Note created Sep 20, 2006
ClimateBiz - Article - U.S. CEOs Overwhelmingly Concerned about Climate -
www.climatebiz.com/...

Study Says Renewables Becoming Cost-Competitive in U.S.

Study Says Renewables Becoming Cost-Competitive in U.S.

(Embedded image moved to file: pic11802.gif)GreenBiz.com, 18
September 2006 - Renewable resources currently provide just over 6
percent of total U.S. energy, but that figure could increase rapidly
in the years ahead, according to a new report by the Worldwatch
Institute and the Center for American Progress, "American Energy: The
Renewable Path to Energy Security."

Many of the new technologies that harness renewables are, or soon
will be, economically competitive with fossil fuels. Dynamic growth
rates are driving down costs and spurring rapid advances in
technologies. Since 2000, global wind energy generation has more than
tripled; solar cell production has risen six-fold; production of fuel
ethanol from crops have more than doubled; and biodiesel production
has expanded nearly four-fold. Annual global investment in "new"
renewable energy has risen almost six-fold since 1995, with
cumulative investment over this period nearly $180 billion.

"With oil prices soaring, the security risks of petroleum dependence
growing, and the environmental costs of today's fuels becoming more
apparent, the country faces compelling reasons to put these
technologies to use on a larger scale," notes the report. Some of the
findings include:
America boasts some of the world's best renewable energy
resources, which have the potential to meet a rising and
significant share of the nation's energy demand. For example,
one-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to
generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and
the solar resources of just seven southwest states could
provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity.
All but four U.S. states now have incentives in place to
promote renewable energy, while more than a dozen have enacted
new renewable energy laws in the past few years, and four
states strengthened their targets in 2005.
California gets 31 percent of its electricity from renewable
resources; 12 percent of this comes from non-hydro sources such
as wind and geothermal energy.
Texas now has the country's largest collection of wind
generators. The United States led the world in wind energy
installations in 2005.
Iowa produces enough ethanol that, if consumed in-state, would
meet half the state's gasoline requirements.
Renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy produced
and per dollar spent than fossil fuel technologies do.

Despite strong public support and rapidly rising interest in
renewable technologies, the U.S. has not kept up with the rapid
growth in the sector globally over the past decade. If the U.S. is to
join the world leaders in renewable energy-among them Germany, Spain,
and Japan-it will need world-class energy policies based on a
sustained and consistent policy framework at the local, state, and
national levels.

Note created Sep 21, 2006
Study Says Renewables Becoming Cost-Competitive in U.S. - www.wbcsd.org/...

California Sues Carmakers Over Global Warming


California Sues Carmakers Over Global Warming

SAN FRANCISCO - California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

It comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

California has also targeted the auto industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.

Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action -- prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules.

"That's the objective," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization that provides public research and forecasts about the industry. "They want to get the automakers basically to bow down and pay homage to the (emissions) law."

The complaint, which an auto industry trade group called a "nuisance" suit, names General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., the US arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd..

Lockyer told Reuters he would seek "tens or hundreds of millions of dollars" from the automakers in the lawsuit filed in US District Court in Northern California.

Environmental groups hailed the lawsuit, saying it represented another weapon for the state as it seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spur the auto industry to build vehicles that pollute less.

"(California) just passed a new law to cut global warming emissions by 25 percent and that's a good start and this lawsuit is a good next step," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming Program.

Ford deferred comment to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which said the lawsuit was similar to one a New York court dismissed that is now on appeal.

"Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a similar nuisance suit that was brought by attorneys- general against utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York," the industry group said in a statement.

Toyota declined to comment as the company evaluates the lawsuit, while Honda said in a statement it was committed to developing environmentally responsible technology.

The other automakers had no immediate comment.

But Sean Hecht, executive director of the Environmental Law Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the lawsuit has a "reasonable" chance of succeeding.

He also noted the judge in the New York lawsuit cited rarely-used legal doctrine in ruling that the question at issue was political rather than legal and should therefore be addressed by the legislature and not the court.

"I was surprised that the court in that case did that," he said. "I think it is a straight forward legal question. My impression is this is a very legitimate case to bring."

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future monetary damages to California.

It said California is spending millions to deal with reduced snow pack, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish.

"The injuries have caused the people to suffer billions of dollars in damages, including millions of dollars of funds expended to determine the extent, location and nature of future harm and to prepare for and mitigate those harms, and billions of dollars of current harm to the value of flood control infrastructure and natural resources," it said.

The Center for Automotive Research's Cole said it would be tough for the industry to immediately meet demands from some critics and predicted other states would quickly follow suit should California succeed with the legal action.

Adoption of diesel engine emissions technology or gasoline- electric hybrids comes at great cost and improving gas mileage also likely means smaller lighter vehicles, trade-offs that are not attractive to consumers, he added.

"These are not free technologies, they are very expensive," Cole said. "Most people are price sensitive."

In the complaint, Lockyer charges that vehicle emissions have contributed significantly to global warming and have harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of the most populous state in the United States.

Lockyer -- a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November election -- said the lawsuit states that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing "millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide."

Carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases have been linked to global warming.

Story by Michael Kahn

Note created Sep 21, 2006
Planet Ark - California Sues Carmakers Over Global Warming - www.planetark.com/...

Top Chemical Picks Outperform Competitors by 122%

Top Chemical Picks Outperform Competitors by 122%
Source: GreenBiz.com
NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2006 - Innovest, the financial analyst firm, has
released its most recent report on the Chemical Sector. As the only
investment research firm that currently identifies chemical product
risk prior to incident, the Innovest report examines how product
liability is likely to be a significant driver of volatility over the
next several years.

An excerpt from this report including a list of the 61 companies
covered is available in pdf format here.

"In the chemical universe, we have identified specific themes that
overlap between the three sub-sectors: the commodity, diversified and
specialty firms," said Heather Langsner, the senior Innovest analyst
on the project. " While return on capital and improved business model
are important, the companies that stand out in terms of leading new
technology trends are the ones that could yield greater returns over
the next 2-3 years. Additionally, we're happy to report that our in
depth review of regulatory and other event drivers helped our clients
avoid missteps in the industry several times over this past year."

In addition to the product liability issue, the report takes a look
at the European Chemicals Policy (REACH), in-depth analysis of
Biobased Plastics, Ethanol, and Bio-fuels, as well as a first-time
look at emerging markets exposure, especially as it relates to China.

As each company in the industry is analyzed, they receive a rating
from Innovest relative to their peer group (AAA to CCC). In a time
series analysis of the 61 companies in the Chemical Sector, the top
rated companies outperformed the bottom rated companies by 122% over
the last 7 years.

More News...

Note created Sep 20, 2006
GreenBiz News | Top Chemical Picks Outperform Competitors by 122% -
www.greenbiz.com/...

Toxic shock: How Western rubbish is destroying Africa


Toxic shock: How Western rubbish is destroying Africa
Western corporations are exploiting legal loopholes to dump their waste in Africa. And in Ivory Coast, the price has been death and disease for thousands. Meera Selva reports
Published: 21 September 2006

One August morning, people living near the Akouedo rubbish dump in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, woke up to a foul-smelling air. Soon, they began to vomit, children got diarrhoea, and the elderly found it difficult to breathe. "The smell was unbelievable, a cross between rotten eggs and blocked drains," said one Abidjan resident. "After 10 minutes in the thick of it, I felt sick."

As they live near the biggest landfill in Abidjan, the people of Akouedo are used to having rubbish dumped on their doorstep. Trucks unload broken glass, rotting food and used syringes. Children try to make the best of their dismal playground, looking for scraps of metal and old clothes to sell for a few cents.

But this time, the waste would benefit no one. By yesterday, at least six people, including two children, had died from the fumes. Another 15,000have sought treatment for nausea, vomiting and headaches, queuing for hours at hastily set up clinics. Pharmacies have run out of medicines and the World Health Organisation has sent emergency supplies to help the health system. The Ivorian government had resigned over the matter and, so far, eight people have been arrested.

The tragedy is said to have begun on 19 August, after a ship chartered by a Dutch company offloaded 400 tons of gasoline, water and caustic washings used to clean oil drums. The cargo was dumped at Akouedo and at least 10 other sites around the city, including in a channel leading to a lake, roadsides and open grounds.

The liquids began to send up fumes of hydrogen sulphide, petroleum distillates and sodium hydroxides across the city. As the tidy-up operation begins, environmental groups have begun to ask how this occurred.

"We thought the days when companies shipped toxic waste to poor countries were over," said Helen Perivier, toxics co-ordinator for Greenpeace. "It peaked in the 1980s but since then the determination of African countries to stamp the trade out has helped yield results. That this has happened again is extraordinary."

Probo Koala, the ship that offloaded the waste, is registered in Panama and chartered by the Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer. Trafigura had tried to offload its slops in Amsterdam, but the Amsterdam Port Services recognised its contents as toxic and asked to renegotiate terms. Trafigura said shipping delays would mean penalties of at least 250,000 US dollars (£133,000) so handed it over to a disposal company in Abidjan alongside a "written request that the material should be safely disposed of, according to country laws, and with all the correct documentation."

This story is a common one. All down the West Africa coast, ships registered in America and Europe unload containers filled with old computers, slops, and used medical equipment. Scrap merchants, corrupt politicians and underpaid civil servants take charge of this rubbish and, for a few dollars, will dump them off coastlines and on landfill sites.

Throughout the 1980s, Africa was Europe's most popular dumping ground, with radioactive waste and toxic chemicals foisted on landowners. In 1987 an Italian ship dumped a load ofwaste on Koko Beach, Nigeria. Workers who came into contact with it suffered from chemical burns and partial paralysis, and began to vomit blood.

Thereafter, the UN drew up plans to regulate the trade in hazardous waste through the Basel Convention. By 1998, the European Union had agreed to implement the ban, which prohibited the export of hazardous wastes from developed countries to the developing world, but the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign up;global waterways are still filled with ships looking to unload their toxic waste.

And now, there is a new threat - the dumping of electronic waste, or e-waste: unwanted mobile phones, computers and printers, which contain cadmium, lead, mercury and other poisons. More than 20 million computers become obsolete in America alone each year.

The UK generates almost 2 million tons of electronic waste. Disposing of this in America and Europe costs money, so many companies sell it to middle merchants, who promise the computers can be reused in Africa, China and India. Each month about 500 container loads, containing about 400,000 unwanted computers, arrive in Nigeria to be processed. But 75 per cent of units shipped to Nigeria cannot be resold. So they sit on landfills, and children scrabble barefoot, looking for scraps of copper wire or nails. And every so often, the plastics are burnt, sending fumes up into the air.

"There is a tradition of burning rubbish all over Africa, but this new burning of electronic equipment is incredibly dangerous," said Sarah Westervelt of the Basel Action Network, a pressure group that monitors the trade in hazardous waste. In China, workers burn PVC-coated wires to get at the copper, and swirl acids in buckets to extract scraps of gold.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that worldwide, 20 million to 50 million tons of electronics are discarded each year. Less than 10 per cent gets recycled and half or more ends up overseas. As Western technology becomes cheaper and the latest machine comes to be regarded as a disposable fashion statement, this dumping will only intensify.

"Electronic goods are the fastest growing area of retail," said Liz Parkes, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency. "We need to encourage people to think about whether they really need a new electronic item, and to consider what happens to the goods they throw out."

Where does our rubbish go?

* Inspections of 18 European ports in 2005 found that 47 per cent of all waste destined for export was in fact illegal. (Greenpeace)

* In 1993, there were two million tons of waste crossing the globe. By 2001, it had risen to 8.5 million. (UN)

* UK households throw away 93 million pieces of electrical equipment a year - about four items per household. Many of these end up in West Africa, India or China. (Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling)

* There are more than 20 million redundant mobile phones in the UK. (Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling)

* From next summer, manufacturers and importers of electrical goods will have to take responsibility for collecting and reusing old or outdated equipment. (Defra)

* It is illegal to ship hazardous waste out of Europe, but old electronic items can be sent to developing countries for "recycling". (Defra)

Note created Sep 21, 2006
Independent Online Edition > Africa - news.independent.co.uk/...

Travel Group Challenges Cruise Lines to Address Climate

Travel Group Challenges Cruise Lines to Address Climate
Source: GreenBiz.com

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 31, 2006 - A nonprofit promoting sustainable
development and eco-friendly travel has challenged the travel
industry to answer the question, "Where does the cruise ship industry
stand on the issue of global climate change?"

According to the Boulder-based non-profit Sustainable Travel
International, the travel and tourism industry is catching on quickly
about how to neutralize its own global warming related impacts from
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. One industry, however, has remained
relatively silent.

"Cruise line industry operations are one of the biggest contributors
to global warming related GHG emissions within the travel and tourism
industry" explains STI Vice President Peter D. Krahenbuhl, "and
ironically, this will impact the very places they depend on for
business, particularly low-lying islands and coastal destinations."

According to Krahenbuhl, the rapid expansion of the cruise ship
industry has triggered a public outcry for the industry to address
its pollution-related impacts, as environmental laws have not kept
pace with industry growth. "Some cruise lines are beginning to
improve environmental performance through technology and improved
management systems, but none of the major cruise lines have opted to
support voluntary carbon offset initiatives," he says.

One expedition cruise company already has stepped up to STI's
challenge. Adventure Smith Explorations offers expedition cruises and
wilderness adventures in a pioneering approach that utilizes small
ships and yachts to explore nature and wildlife up close. The company
is the first North American-based small cruise ship operator to
offset it passengers' fuel consumption related emissions through STI
and its Web site,
Note created Sep 20, 2006
ClimateBiz - Article - Travel Group Challenges Cruise Lines to Address
Climate - www.climatebiz.com/...

Maxifuels: Bringing second generation bioethanol to the market

Maxifuels: Bringing second generation bioethanol to the market

Birgitte Kiær Ahring

BioCentrum-DTU, BST

 

The MaxiFuels project is constructed to solve the major barriers for bioethanol production from lignocellulosic materials by cost efficient conversion of the raw material, maximizing the amount of biofuels and minimizing the disposal of process water.

 

Efficient and optimized use of the raw materials with an environmentally friendly technology is the key to future success for the 2nd generation bioethanol production. Therefore the overall process outline for MaxiFuels has been defined to yield the maximum amount of bio-fuels per unit of raw material and to increase the process benefit by utilization of the resi-dues for further energy conversion and by-product refining.

 

The main product is bioethanol - but the focus on production of other biofuels such as meth-ane (from a biogas process), hydrogen (from xylose fermentation) and other valuable by-products from the parts of biomass not suitable for ethanol production add full value to the overall process benefit. This focus exploits an environmentally friendly way of producing bioethanol where recirculation and reuse of all streams produced in the process have been fully integrated. For example, reuse of the process water is possible with the integration of the biogas process.

 

Output from 1,000 kg straw:

  • Bioethanol: 310 litre
  • Biogas: 90 m3
  • Solid biofuel: 230 kg
Estimated price per litre bioethanol: 0.31 euro

Note created Sep 21, 2006
Maxifuels: Bringing second generation bioethanol to the market - www.biocentrum.dtu.dk/...


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21.9.06

EU Rejects Two Pesticides After Greens' Objection

EU Rejects Two Pesticides After Greens' Objection
BELGIUM: September 19, 2006

BRUSSELS - EU agriculture ministers turned down seven-year authorisations for two highly toxic crop pesticides on Monday after objections from environmental groups that said the products should be banned outright.

Earlier this month, the European Commission was forced to tighten up its proposal for authorising eight pesticides after EU-25 national experts said they were so hazardous that the bloc should impose far stricter rules on their use.

The two pesticides rejected on Monday were azinphos-methyl and vinclozolin.

Azinphos-methyl is an organophosphate insecticide used on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, while vinclozolin is a fungicide used on rapeseed, ornamental flower crops and chicory.

The other six pesticides -- carbendazim, dinocap, fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos and procymidone -- will be submitted to EU ministers for possible authorisation next week.

For the six products, the Commission has backed down from its initial demand for a seven-year authorisation.

Dinocap and carbendazim should only be permitted for three more years, it says, while the maximum use period for fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos and procymidone should be 18 months. Environmental and public interest groups say all the eight pesticides pose a threat to human health and the countryside, and insist that they should be banned completely.


Note created Sep 19, 2006
Planet Ark : EU Rejects Two Pesticides After Greens' Objection - www.planetark.com/...